Fix a date for Anwar’s takeover to stop talk of infighting, say analysts

Anwar Ibrahim will take over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad under a deal reached by Pakatan Harapan leaders.

PETALING JAYA: Conflicting statements, rumours of a no-confidence vote and the lack of a specific date for the transition of power from Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Anwar Ibrahim could be an indication that all is not well with Pakatan Harapan.

Singapore’s Straits Times recently reported that PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has been subtly building up pressure for the promised transition of power even as the government faces criticism over poor policies and a slowing economy.

Even though the PH coalition has agreed for Mahathir to remain the prime minister for two years, analysts say not fixing the date for transition and contradictory statements by PH leaders suggest a virtual power struggle.

University of Tasmania’s Prof James Chin said one way to put all the speculation to rest was to announce a date.

“As soon as they announce it, all the noise will disappear. It is that simple. The sooner they announce it, the better,” he told FMT.

Even though PKR has reaffirmed its support for Mahathir, time and again, it has not shied away from reminding the PH chairman of his promise to hand over the reins after two years.

Anwar also reportedly said that Mahathir made it clear he would not exceed two years.

But Mahathir had reportedly said he needed between two-and-a-half to three years to fix the prevailing problems of over RM1 trillion in debt inherited from the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

Chin said it was time Mahathir clarified if he was going to step down at all.

“If yes, state the date. If no, just say so. If Mahathir is stepping down next year, he should announce the date. Why play games with such an important issue?” he asked.

Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Kamarul Zaman Yusoff concurred with Chin and said not declaring the date at the time of announcing the agreement last year was a mistake.

“Uncertainty is not something good in politics as it leads to instability. So the best thing that PH can do is just to fix the date instead of leaving the matter to the discretion of Tun (Mahathir).

“It can lead to further problems because certain quarters would like Tun to serve a full term,” he said.

Kamarul said “something profound will happen” if the agreed-upon transition didn’t take place after two years.

The academic said there was restlessness among the reformists with respect to the slow implementation of reforms to the extent that some supporters have openly asked for Mahathir to resign.

On top of that, Kamarul said, were the perceived attempts of PPBM to strengthen its position by accepting former Umno leaders and by spreading its wings to Sabah and Sarawak.

“However, there is no concrete evidence that a vote of no confidence is being plotted by anyone other than the assertions, including formally by PKR, that Tun should pass the baton after two years,” he said.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said “a very subtle and symbolic power struggle” with overlapping statements was underway.

“If you observe the body language and the words uttered, there is clearly a very delicate and latent form of antagonism between these two political figures,” he told FMT.

Awang Azman said there was talk that PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin was supporting Anwar, and that the party was now divided into two camps.

“If that is true, then an internal struggle within PH is taking place,” he said.

Awang Azman said he did not foresee any more parliamentarians jumping ship in the near future.

He said the cold ties between PAS and DAP would make it impossible for the Islamist party to join PH and that the acceptance of 20 MPs into PPBM won’t be an issue unless the latter broke its promise to hand over power.