Anwar must come out of Mahathir’s shadow, say analysts

Anwar Ibrahim chaired a meeting of Pakatan Harapan and its allies, Mahathir Mohamad and Warisan president Shafie Apdal, last Tuesday.

PETALING JAYA: Although Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim need each other for the opposition bloc to regain power, Anwar needs to get out of Mahathir’s shadow, say two academics.

While Mahathir still commanded support and could draw MPs to the coalition’s side, he should remain in the background, the analysts said.

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya agree that Mahathir, has made several political mistakes which eventually led to the downfall of the PH government, which collapsed when he resigned as prime minister in February.

The collapse was a sign of Mahathir losing his political touch, said Azmi, while Awang Azman said Mahathir’s delay in handing over power to Anwar had generated discontent among the people.

Azmi Hassan

Azmi told FMT that Anwar needed to get out of Mahathir’s shadow and to get rid of the perception that PH needed Mahathir to wrest control of Putrajaya.

Mahathir could still draw the support of MPs to PH, but it would be better for the coalition if he worked in the background, Azmi said.

“I think Mahathir’s relationship with PH needs to be minimised or diminished… I don’t think it’s a good idea to give Tun a more prominent role in PH. As long as PH still depends on Mahathir’s influence, the question of who is the designated prime minister will be up in the air, just as it was when PH was in government,” he said.

However, he said it was undeniable that the two political heavyweights needed one another in order to depose the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

“Mahathir’s camp will not dispute that Anwar alone has the support of 90 plus MPs while Tun can only garner the support of 20 plus MPs. But, if one were to be without the other, the numbers won’t mean much since both of them need each other,” he said.

Awang Azman Pawi

Awang Azman said Anwar deserved the trust to acquire a simple majority in Parliament, while Mahathir should seek to shed light to the people on PH’s capability in improving the economy and government administration.

“Mahathir should also leave a political legacy that looks more sincere by making way for Anwar instead of vying with him some more after years of political enmity,” he added.

Anwar chaired a rare meeting with Mahathir and Warisan leaders last Tuesday which was described as a “comprehensive” discussion between the leaders, including the coalition’s choice for prime minister.

A joint statement by the five leaders in the grouping, dubbed PH Plus, said a decision on the outcome of the meeting will be made within a week.

Maszlee Malik, a former PPBM leader, recently said PH will remain an opposition coalition indefinitely if it chooses to sideline Mahathir, adding that past general elections showed that Anwar could only secure up to 92 MPs.

Awang Azman disagreed with Maszlee, saying that some PH leaders needed to get rid of the mentality that only Mahathir could acquire enough support for a simple majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

“It was Mahathir who caused PH’s collapse by resigning (as prime minister) without discussing first with PH. Despite the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s advice, Mahathir was still adamant about resigning,” he said, pointing out Mahathir’s mistakes.

He added that Anwar’s charisma and moderate attitude will play a significant role in uniting the coalition and ensuring that it remains in the political “middle ground”.

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