Handover date on the agenda at council meet

  • Analysis
  • Friday, 14 Feb 2020

Anwar Ibrahim (left) with Mahathir - filepic

Pakatan Harapan top guns are keen to press Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to ease the political uncertainty over when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will take over.

IT is quite clear by now that not all Pakatan Harapan MPs will support the PAS plan for a vote of confidence in Parliament for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to complete the full term as Prime Minister.

Some of the MPs are against supporting an Opposition motion even though they support Dr Mahathir.

Others like Tanjung Malim MP and PKR vice-president Chang Lih Kang are against the fact that the motion is to enable Dr Mahathir to go a full term for the simple reason that it would be against the coalition’s agreement of a mid-term handover of power.

Chang’s stand reflects that of MPs loyal to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. They respect Dr Mahathir as the Prime Minister but they also want him to respect the transition agreement.

The fact that not all Pakatan MPs will come along suggests that the motion could turn out to be a double-edged sword.

The Prime Minister, said Selangor PAS secretary Roslan Shahir, will have substantial support from the Opposition bench.

It is likely that Umno MPs, most of whom have signed statutory declarations (SDs) in support of Dr Mahathir, will vote for the PAS motion.

Sources claimed that even Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, a long-time nemesis of Dr Mahathir, signed the SD a few days ago.

But Dr Mahathir’s standing as Prime Minister will be affected if he gets only partial support from his own government bench.

It would affect his standing as the coalition leader and may even call into question his continuity as prime minister.

“It will make a mockery of the government. It is up to the Speaker (of Dewan Rakyat) but we hope he will not allow it, ” said Chang.

It would also confirm what is already public knowledge – Pakatan is divided over the transition issue.

It is a rather dangerous and risky move and it explains why Penang Umno politician Azizi Safar perceives it as a political game to shake the ruling coalition and lay the ground for something more ominous.

“PAS has become some kind of kingmaker with the ability to get people all hot and bothered, ” said Azizi.

On the other hand, some see the PAS initiative as a pre-emptive strike in case Anwar’s supporters attempt a vote of no confidence against Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir and Hadi, said Roslan, have struck up a comfortable relationship in the last one year.

The Prime Minister is also said to have taken a personal liking to Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar whom the elder man views as intelligent, clean and hardworking.

There is definitely some sort of symbiotic chemistry going on between Dr Mahathir and the top PAS leadership.

But this vote of confidence move may be overtaken by what could possibly happen at the Pakatan presidential council meeting next week.

It will be the coalition’s first presidential council meeting since last November or rather since Dr Mahathir’s unilateral announcement that he plans to play host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit scheduled for November this year.

That seems to be a done deal following a meeting between Anwar and Dr Mahathir yesterday.

But Pakatan leaders will want to ask Dr Mahathir to address the rumours about the alleged formation of the new coalition and to stamp it out if it is not true.

However, Perak PKR chief Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak expects a “serious discussion” on the handover date at the presidential council meeting.

“The uncertainty and speculation will go on without a clear handover date and it’s not good for the economy.

“Anwar has said that he is prepared to wait another six months if Dr Mahathir wishes to stay till after November. But they need to know the date.

“However, there is no way any of them will pressure the PM. You cannot pressure a sitting prime minister, it’s not possible, ” said Farhash.

The young circle around Anwar had been vocal about a May transition and even held a forum to question the need for Dr Mahathir to continue till November.

They do not understand that Dr Mahathir dislikes being pushed or told what to do, especially by young Turks. It is understood that Anwar has reined them in.

Anwar wants to avoid a repeat of 1998 which led to two decades of political conflict.

He knows all too well the Prime Minister’s power of incumbency which Dr Mahathir had used to the hilt against his enemies during his first round at the top.

Those who lived through the first round imagine that the famous “Mahathir playbook” is once again in play.

The arrest of DAP politicians for alleged terrorism, the way he took on the Dong Jiao Zong over the Jawi issue and the timing of the string of court decisions involving political figures in the last few weeks have been the topic of kopitiam chatter.

Those close to Dr Mahathir claim he is quite prepared to go off after November but he will decide when to call it a day.

So good luck to those preparing to ask him to name the day.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Star.

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