PETALING JAYA: The stage is now set for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s ascent to become the country’s next prime minister.
Port Dickson MP Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah from PKR has vacated his seat, triggering a by-election which Anwar will contest.
In the event that the PKR president-elect wins the Negri Sembilan constituency, he will return to the Dewan Rakyat as an MP, allowing the transition of the country’s leadership to take place as per Pakatan Harapan’s agreement.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would honour the agreement – that he will be interim Prime Minister for two years before handing over the reins to Anwar.
At a media conference announcing Danyal’s resignation, PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the party would not commit Dr Mahathir to any specific timeline before handing over power to Anwar.
“For Anwar to be in a legitimate position to become Pakatan’s prime minister designate, he needs to be a Member of Parliament first – and the only legitimate way is via an election,” Saifuddin told a media conference at PKR headquarters here.
Other PKR leaders present included vice-presidents Rafizi Ramli and Dr Xavier Jayakumar, as well as MPs Datuk Johari Abdul (Sungai Petani) and Datin Paduka Dr Tan Yee Kew (Wangsa Maju).
Anwar was in Hong Kong when the press conference was held while PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, who is also the Economic Affairs Minister, was away on an official visit to Hanoi, Vietnam.
Anwar’s wife, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and their daughter Nurul Izzah, who is also PKR vice-president and Permatang Pauh MP, were also absent.
Saifuddin said Danyal submitted his resignation letter with immediate effect to the Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
Saifuddin also announced that Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah would lead the party’s by-election machinery.
He said Anwar first openly expressed his intention to be an MP during the Sungai Kandis by-election.
Several PKR MPs then offered him their seats, with Anwar finally settling on Port Dickson.
Dr Mahathir and the leaders of Pakatan’s component parties – Pribumi, DAP and Amanah – have already been informed of the decision, Saifuddin said.
The three parties, said Saifuddin, welcomed the decision and had pledged to support Anwar’s by-election campaign.
“Having Anwar as an MP will add value to Pakatan, as he will be able to play a more effective role as a parliamentarian.
“Anwar has also said clearly that when he is an MP he will focus on parliamentary reforms and will not hold any government position,” said Saifuddin.
Asked whether Azmin’s supporters were purposely left out of discussions over which seat Anwar would contest, Saifuddin replied: “Anwar has said that at present, everyone is in his camp. When several MPs offered their seats, we did not ask them which camp they belonged to.”
Saifuddin was also asked on allegations of nepotism with Anwar, Dr Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah all being members of the Dewan Rakyat.
“Both Dr Wan Azizah and Nurul Izzah were elected via a democratic process and were chosen by voters,” he replied.
“It’s not a situation where Anwar has the power to appoint the two as MPs.”
On the possibility that the Port Dickson by-election would see a low turnout similar to the previous three by-elections that have been held so far since the May 9 general election, namely Sungai Kandis, Balakong and Seri Setia in Selangor, Rafizi said that it was something PKR would take into account.
“At this early stage, after the last general election, it is understandable if we have a lower voter turnout.
“It is a challenge but we have proven in the last general election that even in the most challenging environment, when all odds were stacked against us, when we had to do what is right, we went ahead and the results have been good,” added Rafizi.