Ahead of Pakatan meet, Anwar mooted as DPM to solidify succession plan

Radzi Razak And Azril Annuar
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaks to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during PKR’s retreat at the Lexis Hibiscus resort in Port Dickson July 19, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should make Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim his deputy prime minister to cement the planned power transition, several observers have suggested, ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s Presidential Council meet on the matter tonight.

PKR senator Yusmadi Yusoff said the two have been in similar positions before and the appointment would also ensure there would be no disruption to the administration once Dr Mahathir resigns after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit that will be held here in November.

“I would think the transition plan will be more effective if Anwar were to be appointed as DPM as soon as possible,” Yusmadi suggested when saying the “unprecedented” arrangement needed the cooperation of all Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders.

Yusmadi argued that the duo have the experience and knowledge that are unmatched by others in the coalition.

Citing other transitions that took place in Ukraine, Japan, and Zimbabwe, he said these collapsed due to leaders’ selfishness, allowing previously defeated regimes to regain power.

He claimed that making Anwar the DPM would give Malaysia a better chance of avoiding the same outcome.

“We have seen examples where the coalition party split such as in Zimbabwe, and we have seen examples in Ukraine where the top leadership who led the change quarreled among themselves at the expense of the people and resulted in the old regime coming back to power,” he said.

On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir reiterated his intention to step down as prime minister but only after Malaysia hosts the Apec Summit.

Malaysia previously hosted the summit in 1998.

PH has presented Anwar as Dr Mahathir’s immediate successor but it was later revealed that there was no formal agreement on when the latter must hand over the position.

The PH presidential council is meeting on Friday, with Anwar saying it will decide when Dr Mahathir should relinquish his post.

Another PKR insider told Malay Mail that making Anwar the DPM would give him time to ease back into a government position while simultaneously allowing Dr Mahathir to take on more strategic concerns.

The person who declined to be named also said it would provide PH time to groom a leader to be Anwar’s deputy and permit the PKR president to begin preparing the coalition for the next general election.

Anwar’s wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is the deputy prime minister now.

“We saw this before in the 1990s when Anwar, who also held the finance minister’s post, was dealing with several intricate domestic matters while Tun Mahathir at that time was focused on the big pictures such as Wawasan 2020 and international stuff,” the person said.

“With Anwar as the number two, Tun could focus on the Apec Summit and the big stuff while Anwar would prepare to bring PH up to speed in the incoming 15th general election.

Media consultant Terence Fernandez believed that the transition issue would doom the coalition if it is not handled definitively and transparently.

He said Dr Mahathir must announce a firm date for his departure, just as he did when he stepped down for Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to take over in 2003.

Fernandez said anything short of this would be reckless and irresponsible towards the country.

He also supported the idea of allowing Anwar into the Cabinet as soon as possible.

“He should take on the DPM role in the next reshuffle. Anwar has been coy about this. Time to make that request and replace his wife. There must be a clear succession plan. The people demand it, investors want it, the economy and national security requires it!” said Fernandez.

Fernandez said there was a growing urgency to resolve the matter considering rumours that the informal Muafakat Nasional Opposition coalition was eyeing a unity government with Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu.

Prior to the last general election, PH told Malaysians that Dr Mahathir would serve as the PM for two years and the coalition would work to free Anwar from prison so that he could take over after that.

However, it was later revealed that the two-year transition was never formally agreed.

The lack of any formal timeline has led to incessant speculation, rumours, and intrigue about the transition, forcing both Dr Mahathir and Anwar to repeatedly insist that the promised transition will take place.

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