KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 29 — In a week where opinions changed with each development while heroes and villains swapped roles overnight, the emergence of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the man expected now to take over as Malaysia’s next prime minister still managed to be the surprise twist.
But it was ultimately the only scenario left that was staring Malaysians in the face, especially after Pakatan Harapan (PH) stuck to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as their PM-candidate, and an apparently overwhelming rejection of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s non-partisan unity government idea.
Barring another sting in the tail of an already tumultuous week, Warisan from Sabah and GPS from Sarawak are already widely expected to throw their weight behind Team Muhyiddin.
So if Muhyiddin does emerge victorious, what can Malaysians expect from his government?
An obvious answer would be that it would be more Malay- and Bumiputera-centric, considering the make-up of his supporters which include PAS and Umno.
MCA and MIC would have a seat at the table but the Cabinet is expected to be predominantly Bumiputera, to reflect and represent Sabah and Sarawak.
A key insider told some journalists in a meeting earlier in the week that one of the main problems with the previous PH government was that it did not reflect the demography of the country.
It remains to be seen now how a Muhyiddin government can effectively represent non-Malays.
But its key focus is likely to be the economy, with Malays and Bumiputeras seen as facing the worst effects of the country’s economic problems.
The Covid-19 stimulus package, the last act of Dr Mahathir’s PH government, will help matters but the new government still has its work cut out in trying to fix Malaysia’s economy.
The ongoing meltdown in the global financial markets and its effects on Malaysia will be the first challenge facing the new government.
Yesterday’s resignation of Tan Sri Tommy Thomas as attorney general also throws up a major question mark regarding the prosecution of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and a whole slew of other Umno politicians over the 1MDB scandal and other corruption scandals.
There is already intense speculation over those cases and Muhyiddin will probably face questions about them very early on in his administration if he does cross the line to become the next PM.
A Muhyiddin government will of course be extremely unpopular in urban Malaysia which overwhelmingly voted for PH in the last elections.
Many of those voters will feel cheated. They will feel betrayed after the events of this week.
Perhaps some may even feel the idea of a unity government is not too bad after all.
There is no doubting a Muhyiddin administration, which may be welcome by a large and significant part of the population, will still face many detractors from the get-go.
With about two-and-a-half years left before elections have to be called, will this new coalition last the pace and capture the support of most Malaysians?
Obviously there is no answer to such a question now. But fixing the economy will probably help.