‘Idol’ Anwar still PH’s best asset but must ‘rein in DAP’

PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim was named as Pakatan Harapan’s prime ministerial candidate before the coalition’s fall from power last month.

PETALING JAYA: Two academics have refused to write off Anwar Ibrahim as a failed politician following his party’s fall from federal power, saying he is the person most capable of ensuring Pakatan Harapan’s survival.

Azmi Hassan and Awang Azman Pawi told FMT they could not see anyone, not even Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as more able than Anwar to lead PH as it transitions to becoming an opposition bloc again.

However, Azmi said it had become necessary for the PKR president to showcase his ability to rein in DAP as a member of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

“Anwar needs to demonstrate that PKR under his command is still a formidable force, and to do this he needs to show he has what it takes to control DAP,” the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia academic told FMT.

“A liability that he has right now is that his political existence is at the mercy of DAP. This is his weakest point as far as the Malays are concerned. He needs to work on this to show otherwise.”

Azmi described Anwar as “the only saviour” PH could depend on to prevent the coalition from collapsing.

“Mahathir’s influence on PH needs to be diminished,” he said.

“As I see it, only Anwar’s presence in PH will make that possible.”

Awang Azman of Universiti Malaya meanwhile said blame had been unfairly laid on Anwar for PH’s loss of power, noting that he had no position in Mahathir’s Cabinet.

He said Mahathir was more deserving of blame because he delayed handing over power to Anwar, thereby opening up opportunities for “external and internal forces” to take advantage of the situation.

“Anwar still has followers and is an idol to various age groups,” he said. “Without Anwar, PKR wouldn’t have been established and Reformasi wouldn’t have happened.”

However, James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said he believed many were blaming Anwar for PH’s fall, particularly those in the middle class, a key demographic of support for the coalition.

Chin said Anwar had only one shot left at becoming prime minister, as there would be no more opportunities for him should PH lose in the next general election.

“But the bigger problem is how to manage being the opposition when Perikatan Nasional is enticing your MPs to cross over,” he said. “Hence, leadership is crucial.

“In the short term, the biggest danger is not who the leader is, but whether Mahathir decides to cross over. His status is not clear. He may or may not still be a member of PPBM.”