Who is the Opposition's PM-in-waiting?

OPPOSITION leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was conspicuously absent from a press conference led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after the Parliament meeting on Monday (May 18).

In the press conference, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman Dr Mahathir was flanked on his left by Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, and on his right by Bersatu deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.

Missing was any representative from PKR, which has the second-highest number of MPs in the Opposition bloc of 109 out of the 222 MPs in Parliament.

Did Anwar and PKR snub Dr Mahathir?

According to PKR strategic communications director Fahmi Fadzil, many of the party's MPs and Anwar could not attend the event as it took place at the last minute – they had prior engagements such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri preparations and Covid-19 assistance to give, he said.

"Anwar was scheduled to have an interview with the New York Times, hence his absence from the press conference," said the Lembah Pantai MP.

However, a PKR insider said Anwar's absence at the Dr Mahathir press conference was a signal that the Port Dickson MP was in charge of the Opposition and he was its choice to be prime minister.

"Anwar can't be perceived by the public as a Dr Mahathir lackey. Pakatan Harapan has 92 MPs (DAP 42, PKR 39 and Amanah 11) out of the 109 Opposition MPs. We are the biggest bloc and Anwar is the leader of Pakatan," he said.

The PKR insider said even though the absence of Anwar and PKR was downplayed, he boycotted it because Dr Mahathir wanted to dominate the Opposition bloc.

"Dr Mahathir insisted on having it at his turf (his Perdana Foundation office in Putrajaya) and not in Parliament," he said.

"When you look at the video of the event, Dr Mahathir dominated the show. Guan Eng and Mat Sabu had nothing to contribute, which was what Anwar's side feared would happen. It showed that Anwar was right in not attending it. If not, he would look like a prop of Dr Mahathir."

A Pakatan insider said that PKR, DAP and Amanah MPs were asking why they should attend such an event again.

"It gives the impression that Dr Mahathir was calling the shots when Anwar is the Pakatan boss," he said.

The insider said the Opposition was divided into two camps.

Team Mahathir consists of the five Bersatu rebels and nine Warisan MPs led by Shafie, while Team Anwar comprises Pakatan MPs.

"Shafie was pushing for Dr Mahathir to be Opposition leader. When it was pointed out that Dr Mahathir was not the Opposition leader, the word used was we must give him respect," said the Pakatan insider.

Despite the Opposition portraying a united front via joint press statements, a trust deficit prevails between the two opposition camps.

"There is plenty of misgivings against Dr Mahathir after he pulled the rug on Anwar to be PM," said the Pakatan insider.

He added that Pakatan, especially PKR, wanted Anwar to be the prime minister.

When asked what would happen if Team Mahathir and Shafie insisted that Dr Mahathir was the Opposition's pick for Prime Minister, the insider said they would have to find a "formula".

"It can be Anwar as PM and Mukhriz as DPM. Anything but Mahathir as PM," he said.

"Why must we have Dr Mahathir as PM again? The Pakatan government collapsed because of him. He can take it or leave it," he said.

Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who is a Dr Mahathir loyalist, said he believed that he should be the prime minister. Again.

"We must go back to status quo," he said.

Khairuddin said the fall of the Pakatan government happened because a majority of MPs rejected and stopped Anwar from becoming PM.

"What happened is due to Anwar and his political manoeuvring," he said.

Just like when Pakatan was in government, Dr Mahathir and Anwar are still fighting on who should be prime minister.

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