PETALING JAYA: PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli believes Anwar Ibrahim will become prime minister in the first half of 2021 and that there will still be enough time for him to turn things around for the Pakatan Harapan-led government.
In a speech at the Regional Outlook Forum 2020 in Singapore, Rafizi said it was unlikely that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would hand over the reins to Anwar before 2021 as the 94-year-old had said he would only do so after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit which Malaysia is hosting in November.
The former Pandan MP said a change of prime minister could only be decided if the PH presidential council pushed for a transition date or if there was a vote of no confidence against Mahathir.
However, he said neither was likely to happen given PH’s low approval rating among the people and despite Anwar commanding the support of most PKR and DAP MPs, who account for 92 of the 111 MPs needed to form a minority government.
Though there were “renegade” MPs from these two parties, Rafizi said their number would not exceed five.
“I doubt many MPs, more so the leadership (of PH parties), will want to rock the boat,” he said, adding that a vote of no confidence by PH against its own PM could lead to the coalition’s collapse.
“So while the numbers are there, it is as good as being quite useless where the transition is concerned.”
He also said he did not think Mahathir would drag the transition process until after the Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi corruption trials.
Some people, he said, believed Mahathir should remain as prime minister until Najib and Zahid were found guilty and “go to prison” as this would leave a power vacuum that would enable a realignment between PPBM and Umno.
This, he said, was “difficult to pull off” given Mahathir’s advanced age and the government’s perceived lacklustre performance.
So, he said his gut feeling was that Anwar would take over from Mahathir in the first half of 2021, because if there was no definitive answer after Apec, the PH grassroots and people would lose their patience.
“This will be the turning point with the four parties imposing a date on Mahathir.”
Rafizi said even if Anwar took over from Mahathir in 2021, he would still have enough time to turn things around and it would not become a foregone conclusion that PH would be a one-term government.
While Umno and PAS were expected to continue playing up the race card, Rafizi said he believed the next general election (GE15) would still be decided by the state of the economy.
He said the government had always been formed by parties which won in Peninsular Malaysia, with its 165 parliamentary seats.
Of this 165, Rafizi said, some 40 non-Malay majority seats would be won by PKR or DAP, while 70 Malay-majority seats, with over 70% Malay voters, would be won by Umno or PAS.
“So the battle for the government of Malaysia is usually decided by some 50 mixed, semi-urban seats,” he said, adding that PH’s victory in GE14 was because they won 40 such seats.
The voters in these seats, he said, regardless of race, were most affected by bread-and-butter issues.
Anwar, he said, could turn things around if he could put together a credible economic team and deliver on this front within two years.
“What I’m not sure of is whether Anwar will be radical enough to put aside all the lobbying and vested interests to get credible and professional Cabinet members who can convince the public that things can be better.”
He said if Anwar could do this, and improve on unemployment and low wages, he could still turn public sentiment towards PH and win in the mixed seats.