Battle lines have been drawn between two seasoned politicians for leadership of the Opposition.
WITHIN Opposition circles, the talk is that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has lost patience with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
A day after Anwar and his PKR MPs stayed away from the May 18 press conference called by Dr Mahathir, he said in a Bloomberg TV interview that he has given enough latitude to Dr Mahathir. Latitude was a word he frequently used when asking coalition members to give Dr Mahathir space when the former PM was in office.
But that has changed. Anwar’s PKR inner circle isn’t happy that Dr Mahathir is still trying to act like the Prime Minister-in-waiting.
In the Bloomberg interview, Anwar repeatedly stressed he is the Opposition leader for Pakatan Harapan. However, the seasoned politician didn’t come right out and say he is the PM-in-waiting.
“It is not about personalities here, ” he evaded nicely.
The absence of Anwar and PKR MPs at the press conference called by Dr Mahathir last Monday further fed talk about distrust between the two leaders. Anwar later said that, in future, all Pakatan programmes will be announced by the party’s secretariat and that there would be rules to follow.
A Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst who didn’t want to be named said “there can only be one tiger on the mountain”, adding that neither man will ever play second fiddle.
“The Opposition is divided in reality, ” he said.
PKR central executive committee member Datuk Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, who is also Kapar MP, said that it is time for Dr Mahathir to back down and let Anwar lead the Pakatan coalition.
“We have given him ample time to lead while he was the Prime Minister. We did not disturb any of his work when he was leading Pakatan.
“After his resignation, please let others lead. Anwar is now leader of the Opposition, let us see how he performs.
“Dr Mahathir’s time is over, ” said Abdullah Sani, clearly not in the mood to mince his words.
Political analyst and Universiti Sains Malaysia social science lecturer Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said Pakatan has declared Anwar as the head of the Opposition and of Pakatan.
“That officially confirms his role post-March 2020, ” he said.
However, to avoid any misunderstanding, Pakatan needs to decide now who will be their choice for Prime Minister in the event that the current government falls. After all, Sivamurugan pointed out, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, Warisan president and Semporna MP, filed a motion of confidence in Dr Mahathir to show his support, although the motion was later rejected by the Speaker of the House. Warisan is a Pakatan ally.
“It shows that they (Pakatan) might have to settle that issue as well, ” said Sivamurugan.
Universiti Malaya’s sociopolitics professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Anwar needs to prove himself by playing a more dynamic role in leading Pakatan.
This is because Dr Mahathir’s resignation caused the Pakatan government’s collapse and led to the formation of the Perikatan Nasional federal government: “If Dr Mahathir still wants to lead Pakatan, it might further damage public support for the coalition.
“Also, many believed that Dr Mahathir was not sincere about the transition of power previously.
“Since Dr Mahathir also has problems with his own party leaders, he should make way for Anwar, who is fully supported by PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), ” said Prof Awang Azman.
A seasoned Malay political journalist said the Opposition is clearly divided.
“The Malay masses are increasingly more critical of both. Anwar’s acceptance is very low among Malays while Dr Mahathir is accused of causing his own government to collapse.
“The more conservative Malays cannot accept that he (Dr M) keeps defending DAP. He looks insincere because there are still videos flying around of him when he used to accuse DAP of being racist.”
The journalist said both Anwar and Dr Mahathir should just retire and make way for younger leaders.
Anwar’s political secretary, Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, reiterated that his boss is the leader of the Opposition and Pakatan. However, it is still a partnership in that Dr Mahathir’s opinion is taken seriously and considered, he added.
Former Cabinet minister under Dr Mahathir, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said matters pertaining to big issues should be decided by Pakatan leaders.
“I believe Pakatan’s leadership has to be united in their choice of who will lead Pakatan in moving forward as one force, a force which I believe is capable of taking over the wafer-thin majority of Perikatan’s government, ” he said.
Amanah deputy president Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said both leaders should be working side by side, together.
“For whatever reasons, they should let bygones be bygones. Pakatan wants to move as a unified front so that we can take over the government, ” said the Pulai MP.