After counter-offers and ‘insulting’ proposal, PH to return to Mahathir-Anwar combo

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim emerge from a crowded lift at the PKR headquarters last week.

PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan (PH) is set to bring back Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its prime ministerial candidate, this time with PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim as his deputy, despite them struggling to show that they enjoy “the numbers” among MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, sources tell FMT.

FMT understands that coalition leaders met at least twice at a swanky hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur since the meeting of PH top brass at the PKR headquarters last Tuesday where it was indicated that a prime ministerial candidate would be announced in a week’s time.

This comes as the coalition, in disarray since its loss of power four months ago, reels from a series of defections from PKR that could derail its campaign to return to power.

The choice of Mahathir does not sit well with Anwar’s staunch supporters who point to “broken promises” by the veteran statesman to name the PKR president as his successor during PH’s 22 months in government.

“But it came after several other proposals and counter-proposals which were seen as more disastrous than bringing two figures seen as divisive in our current politics,” said a PKR insider close to leaders from DAP and Amanah.

It said PH has agreed that Mahathir will serve “until the end of the year”, with a “black and white” agreement signed to hand over power to Anwar.

When contacted, a senior PH leader declined to comment.

“An announcement will be made later,” he said.

PH, which now comprises PKR, DAP, Amanah and five MPs sacked from PPBM, has been campaigning to return to power. It collapsed after Mahathir’s resignation in February which was followed by PPBM’s exit from the coalition.

Last month, the former prime minister, a key founder of PPBM, was booted out of the party after he and four other MPs joined the opposition bench during the one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting on May 18.

His loss of membership to a Malay platform such as PPBM had a significant impact on any comeback plans for the veteran leader, especially as only four MPs from PPBM, including his son Mukhriz, have openly refused to work with Muhyiddin Yassin’s government.

With no clear and open support for Mahathir from PPBM other than “statements of respect” for the elderly leader, Anwar’s camp has been claiming that he now has more support, a source told FMT.

“But this claim too floundered as PKR is bracing for defections,” it added.

The source also claimed that the PKR president “does not enjoy solid support from his own elected representatives”, even after the exit of former deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali, who defected alongside about a dozen others to support Muhyiddin’s coalition government with Barisan Nasional, PAS and GPS.

“Both men who are now being touted as the face of PH are aware of the thin ice they are standing on,” the source said.

Still, supporters of Mahathir and Anwar have been claiming that each enjoys more support than the other.

“While PKR and the pro-Anwar camp are aware that Mahathir has lost his negotiating strength owing to his own party’s indifference to him, they also want to clutch any support they can and will try to appease the old man,” said one source, referring to the 95-year-old Mahathir.

“In these shifting political sands, support from five MPs is still crucial,” it added, referring to the five MPs sacked from PPBM: Mahathir, Mukhriz, Maszlee Malik, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman amd Amiruddin Hamzah.

Mahathir insulted?

This in turn led to the offer of several “counter-proposals”.

One such proposal from Anwar’s side, FMT has learnt, sparked an angry response from Mahathir’s camp.

“They went to him with a proposition to make Anwar the prime ministerial candidate, and his son Mukhriz the deputy prime minister.”

The proposal was seen as an insult to Mahathir, the source told FMT.

“The truth is that in all his dealings, his son’s political future does not weigh in very much,” it added.

The move to name Mahathir has received cautious support from DAP which nonetheless remains unconvinced that either he or Anwar has the numbers needed.

But some PH leaders believe there is still a chance to prop up the coalition’s numbers “if Mahathir is its face”.

One way to do this is by wooing Sarawak MPs from the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), which has currently thrown its support behind Muhyiddin.

“With the Sarawak state elections coming soon, there is a need to make GPS happy. It was thought that DAP could sacrifice itself by not participating in the polls so that GPS could strengthen its state government further,” the source said.

“In return, GPS could give 18 raised hands in favour of PH in the event of a Dewan Rakyat vote of confidence.”

FMT cannot verify if the “offer” was formally presented to GPS leaders, but a Sarawak politician was quick to dismiss any such overture as “insulting”.

“For one, DAP is not going to be a threat to us, and secondly, our experience under a PH federal government was something no GPS leader will forget,” the leader, seen as close to top state officials, said.

For now, it seems, PH leaders are making do with the only pair they have: two men whose differences are known worldwide.

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