PETALING JAYA: A political analyst said the last thing Dr Mahathir Mohamad will do now, with Mohamed Azmin Ali accused of being involved in a gay sex scandal, is to set a date for handing over the reins of power to Anwar Ibrahim.
“Anwar’s supporters may think with the current saga involving Azmin still ongoing that the time is right to force Tun to set a date on the handover,” said political geo-strategist Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
“But I think the contrary is about to happen.
“With Azmin nearly out of the picture as a candidate for prime minister (because of the negative image he is receiving from the scandal), Tun’s grasp on his premiership is even tighter.”
Azmi’s comments come in the wake of a video clip released by PKR Santubong Youth chief Haziq Aziz claiming he was the person seen in several viral videos showing two men performing homosexual acts.
Haziq, who was later suspended from his position as private secretary to Deputy Primary Industries Minister Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, named Azmin as the other person in the video. Azmin has strongly denied the claim and has threatened legal action.
Yesterday, Haziq was arrested at the KLIA departure hall at 6pm and police said he would be investigated for carnal intercourse against the order of nature and distribution of obscene material.
Azmi told FMT: “Strategically, it is not correct for Anwar supporters to force Tun to make a decision on the future prime minister at this particular time.”
Under a deal struck by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership before the last general election, PKR president Anwar will succeed Mahathir as prime minister.
Last month, Mahathir gave an assurance he would hand over the reins to Anwar as promised, but said no time frame had been given for the transfer of power.
Mahathir previously said he needed between two and three years to fix problems related to the country’s finances, inherited from the previous government.
There had been speculation that Mahathir was grooming Azmin to take over from him, especially so after Azmin was made economic affairs minister.
On Sept 2, 1998, Mahathir sacked Anwar, accusing him of being a homosexual and sparking a political crisis which saw thousands taking to the streets.
Anwar – Mahathir’s anointed successor at the time – denied the allegation, saying it was designed to stop his quick rise to becoming the prime minister.
Both leaders buried the hatchet in 2016, forming an election alliance which pushed Barisan Nasional out of power last year.
Yesterday, a group of diehard Reformasi supporters urged Mahathir to set a date for the handover, alleging that he was not honouring the PH manifesto.
Otai Reformasi, comprising PKR supporters who took to the streets in the aftermath of Anwar’s sacking in 1998, said even though Mahathir had reportedly promised to hand over the post in two years, he should still set a date to inspire confidence in the people and investors.
“Mahathir says one thing at one place and another at a different place. It’s very odd,” Otai Reformasi chairman Dr Idris Ahmad said at a press conference.
“How long must we wait? If there is a timeline, investors will know when to plough money into the country.”
Azmi said a surface-level analysis of this event pointed to the scenario that the handover of Mahathir’s office was imminent and would occur within a two-year period.
“But looking at how Tun reacted to the purported video, I am now of the opinion that the handover within the stipulated agreed period is just wishful thinking,” he said.
Mahathir recently told reporters that the video clips were fake and that Haziq had a political agenda.
“I don’t think this is true. You can produce these types of pictures if you are clever enough,” he said, adding that Azmin would not be “so stupid” to do this.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun, meanwhile, urged Otai Reformasi to “not stir the nest at the moment and to sit tight along a progressive political course”.
“If this group is, as they proclaim, made up of diehard Reformasi supporters, then they have no other recourse but to abide by Mahathir’s wish to eventually hand over to Anwar, or not,” he told FMT.
“What can they do otherwise? If the reins of power are ultimately not handed over to Anwar, as all signs indicate so now, would they switch their support to the racially supremacist Umno plus the religiously extremist PAS and regress this nation to a kleptocratic and theocratic mess?”