Anwar getting ready to fight for PM’s post, says analyst

Dr Mahathir Mohamad shakes hands with Anwar Ibrahim, who is widely expected to take over from him as prime minister. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has voiced a belief that PKR president Anwar Ibrahim is getting ready to fight for the prime minister’s post instead of waiting for Dr Mahathir Mohamad to hand it to him.

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said this was indicated in a Bloomberg interview yesterday in which Anwar said he expected to take over from Mahathir by 2020.

He also said the endorsement Anwar received on Tuesday from former federal minister Salleh Said Keruak and former Dewan Rakyat speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia was an indication of things to come.

“The battle lines will be made clearer after this as Anwar will need to know who his real supporters and enemies are,” he told FMT.

Under an agreement struck by Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, Mahathir is to hand over power to Anwar on an unspecified date. Mahathir has repeatedly said he will keep his promise once the country is “on an even keel”.

Azmi said the PKR president would need to show he had the backing of most MPs before going all out to claim his prize, and the expressions of support from Salleh and Pandikar were probably a means of getting the ball rolling.

Noting that Anwar dismissed the possibility of having any rival for the PM’s post during the Bloomberg interview, Azmi said this was to send out the message that he was undoubtedly Mahathir’s successor and to put on notice that his waiting period of two years was not negotiable.

The two-year period ends in May 2020.

Azmi predicted that pressure would be piled on Mahathir in the coming months.

“I don’t think Anwar’s camp will accept ambiguous answers now that he has mentioned a specific time frame,” he said.

In recent weeks, Mahathir has come under criticism from the opposition as well as quarters in PH over issues ranging from the sale of government assets to his defence of controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik.

The latest developments, Azmi said, would also put immense pressure on PH and risk dividing the coalition into pro-Anwar and pro-Mahathir camps.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said he believed Anwar was warning off challengers to the prime minister’s post.

He said the path to power would not be smooth for the PKR president because there were “many factors at play”, and he mentioned the cooperation between PAS and Umno as one of these.

“If Umno and PAS can get the rural Malays to back them, Anwar will face a problem as many in PH believe only Mahathir can beat Umno and PAS in Malay areas,” he said.