When former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad shook hands with his former deputy, Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim, after 18 years of acrimony, it signalled a change in the political landscape. It meant a probably teaming up of former political foes.
Political analysts have given their interpretations of what transpired and what lies ahead in the political scene with the probable reconciliation of Mahathir and Anwar.
There are those who believe that the handshake doesn’t imply reconciliation and it doesn’t mean that previous quarrels are forgotten and forgiven. True as that may be, it nonetheless tells us that a move in made to combine two political forces.
PKR insiders claimed that many in the party were kept in the dark of Mahathir’s overture. It was a calculated move by former prime minister, and the reasons for him to mend fences are obvious.
It would have been tough for Mahathir to eat humble pie and grovel at the feet of Anwar, as some analysts have said. But it was a move made out of need. A move, that brings two enemies with a common foe together, is one straight from the political textbook.
This isn’t the first attempt to reconcile the political enemies. There was an earlier attempt to come together in March for Mahathir’s Citizens’ Declaration, but that fell through.
We will see if Mahathir and Anwar are able to forge a new alliance to challenge the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. If we think this is the last cast of dice by Mahathir, we are underestimating him.
Much has been discussed about the political probabilities. What do we make of their body language when they pressed palms?
According to University of Pittsburgh Political Communications Professor Jerry Shuster, body language, mannerisms and facial expressions are 85 per cent of what an audience takes away. Because of this, politicians pay as much attention to their verbal as well as body language when they communicate.
This is what body language experts have to say about a two-handed handshake. Again, here the interpretations are varied.
According to this site, this handshake gives the initiator of the handshake control over the receiver by restricting his right hand. Called the “politician’s handshake”, the initiator tries to give the impression he is trustworthy and honest,
The double-hander is like a miniature hug and is acceptable only in circumstances where a hug could also be given, but not appropriate at that time.
Rather than suggesting connection, it can imply one-upmanship. Politicians are famous for the shake-with-one-hand, cover-with-another-hand greeting. Depending on context, it may work for them, says this site.
Reading of body language isn’t an exact science, but non-verbal communications says a lot. Sometimes it is even more than what is being uttered.