IT may be the last piece in Pakatan Harapan’s jigsaw puzzle, but it is the hardest yet: who should lead the opposition coalition into GE14?
The key to this PH dilemma revolves around Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the 92-year-old former prime minister, who stepped down 14 years ago.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight while DAP, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Amanah have agreed that Dr Mahathir be the “face of PH” going into the 14thgeneral election, there is a faction within PKR which opposes him.
“Three of the parties have already agreed to have Dr Mahathir play a more prominent role, but we are stuck,” a source to the PH negotiations told The Malaysian Insight.
The source said the three parties agreed to a proposal by Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin that Dr Mahathir should be the chairman of the PH presidential council while PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will be the president of the opposition coalition.
“It was Muhyiddin who proposed this compromise,” the source said, adding that in this line-up, Anwar Ibrahim would be PH’s “ketua umum”, or de facto leader.
The line-up was supposed to be finalised at the PH presidential council meeting two weeks ago but it was scuttled after a note from Anwar.
Dr Wan Azizah told reporters after that meeting the final list would be submitted to the Registrar of Societies (RoS) last Friday. PH failed to meet that deadline because of the disagreement over Dr Mahathir’s role.
A divided party
At the heart of the matter is a divided party, said the PH insider.
“Initially, Anwar had some concerns about Dr Mahathir. But that was resolved after he met Amanah leaders Mohamad Sabu and Husam Musa on June 13 and told them that he was leaving this matter to the PKR political bureau to decide.”
In a rare statement on June 17, Anwar said he would not offer himself as a candidate for prime minister.
“But the issue (of who will lead PH) remains, as his party is still divided on the matter,” the source said.
“The party is divided among those who fear Anwar’s legacy will be overtaken by Dr Mahathir and those who still distrust the former prime minister.
“They are afraid that he will cling on to power once he becomes prime minister. That was why Muhyiddin proposed for Anwar to be the ketua umum.”
In an interview with Channel News Asia earlier this week, Dr Mahathir admitted that his role has held back PH’s registration.
“(I think some of them) worry, they distrust,” said Dr Mahathir. “They feel I’m still in the show, hijacking the party.”
Would PH be able to resolve this?
Other insiders told The Malaysian Insight yesterday said they are conscious of the need to name a candidate for prime minister ahead of the elections.
“We need to have another icon ahead of PH just as Barisan Nasional has its Najib Razak. These calls have grown louder in recent weeks,” one said.
“But that does not mean we have to forsake Anwar. Dr Mahathir has his strengths and so does Anwar. But for practical reasons, only one can lead the way for now,” he added.
Some civil society leaders had voiced their frustration over PH’s inability to name a candidate for prime minister.
In its editorial on June 4, Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia branded PH a public joke for being unable to name a leader for the coalition.
All the sources agreed that PH has to resolve this problem quickly.
“Otherwise, everyone is on the losing end,” said a leader. – June 22, 2017