COMMENTARY, Feb 22 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems to have come out stronger and more confident from the Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential meeting last night, with a winning quote “up to me when I will step down after Apec.”
The prime minister has not only turned the tables against his detractors who were pushing him to determine the date he would step down and hand over the premiership to his successor-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim but shut down any more talk about the issue.
Supporters of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president had demanded Dr Mahathir vacate the prime minister’s post by mid-May, which is exactly two years since the coalition took over the government from Barisan Nasional (BN).
Some DAP leaders also did the same as the Chinese-based party realised it has lost ground since May 2018 as reflected in the result of the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election two months ago.
In fact, support from the Chinese seems to have lessened when the government — of which the party is viewed as dominant — succeeded in pushing the learning of jawi in all primary schools including vernacular ones.
The meeting was a big blow to Anwar who expected himself to take over the prime minister’s post by May but over the past one month, it looked as though this would happen at the end of November which is after Apec.
Anwar had directly or indirectly reminded Dr Mahathir of the transition which was purportedly agreed on by both individuals before the May 2018 general election.
The agreement at last night’s meeting has taken away Anwar’s right to remind as well as the rights of leaders of other parties in the coalition to question or keep raising the transition issue anymore.
Anwar is now considered no longer the prime minister-in-waiting as Dr Mahathir said after last night’s meeting that the matter had not arisen.
In short, Anwar is no longer the main actor in the new political play beginning today as Dr Mahathir has now strengthened his position which at the same time gives confidence to investors that he dictates the policies and there will be no change until he steps down.
At the same time, beginning from now Dr Mahathir is expected to move to strengthen his party — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) — and leaders of other parties in the coalition should not question this.
It was rumoured that Dr Mahathir has plans to unite the Malays under one coalition that would strengthen his party and his position as prime minister but the plans have been on hold as the main issue of transition left doubts about whether the plans could be a reality.
Since that obstacle has been eliminated, the plans are expected to move at a faster pace which will dilute PKR and DAP’s dominance in the coalition.
Most importantly, the notion or perception that DAP is dominant in the ruling coalition is quashed.
In this aspect, the country’s political landscape is expected to change drastically as Umno and PAS, if both Malay-based parties participate in Dr Mahathir’s plan, are to agree to the Malay unity plans.
Word has it that leaders of both parties are agreeable to the plans if DAP is sidelined or abandoned.
But the path looks clear for Dr Mahathir to execute his plans and change the country’s political landscape forever.