Speculation, sightings and meetings spark talk of new government in Putrajaya

Radzi Razak
Bersatu chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (in red shirt) leaves PBBM headquarters in Petaling Jaya February 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — Talk is rife today that arrangements are being made for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to meet PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s faction as well as representatives from Umno and PAS, with the ultimate aim of forming a new government by this week.

While there has been no official confirmation of such moves, Dr Mahathr’s Bersatu remains a Pakatan Harapan (PH) component party but its presidential council met this morning as speculation heats up over the future of the current government.

Fuelling the talk was news that Umno leaders will be holding a meeting this afternoon at the party headquarters at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Members of Azmin’s faction have also been sighted at Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel. These are said to include Cabinet ministers Zuraida Kamaruddin, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Baru Bian as well as MPs such as Maria Chin Abdullah and Ali Biju.

Curiously, some Bersatu MPs including Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin and political operator Hishamuddin Rais were also spotted at the hotel.

A sign in the lobby showed a “private event” is currently happening at the hotel’s boardroom where the said individuals have gathered. It is booked until 7pm today.

A source from PKR said that Dr Mahathir will meet the Azmin faction today after he finishes his meeting at Bersatu headquarters, located less than one kilometre away at Menara Yayasan Selangor.

“Tun is said to meet with the MPs from Bersatu and 15 MPs from the Azmin faction tonight or later today.

“Some MPs from Umno are also said to be attending the meeting with the PM tonight as well,” said the source on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, another source confirmed that Dr Mahathir is seeking a meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong soon.

“We have yet to have confirmation on when the Agong will meet. Most probably tomorrow,” said the source.

The source, however, refused to divulge details of the meeting although it could be related to the series of meetings that are happening today.

Meanwhile, another source close to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s faction said they are currently monitoring the situation.

“Of course, because there are MPs from our parties involved in the meeting. We don’t know what they are talking about in the meeting, but we are monitoring the situation at hand,” said the source.

The same source also said there will be meetings at Anwar’s Bukit Segambut residence tonight.

It should be noted, however, that Anwar’s Bukit Segambut residence has always been the venue of religious events on Sunday evenings including prayers and sermons.

On Friday, Dr Mahathir, who is the PH coalition chairman, told reporters that the council had unanimously agreed that he alone should determine when to step down from office.

Speculation had been rife among PKR members and Anwar supporters that their president was going to play hardball at the council meeting and demand the deputy prime ministership currently held by his wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

Many of Anwar’s supporters have been demanding Dr Mahathir hand the reins of power to Anwar before November, in light of their pre-election promise made in 2018.

Anwar was seen to play it coy in demanding a definite date, while some political pundits have claimed Dr Mahathir will never pass the baton to Anwar and that both should seek a compromise to the succession plan.

But despite talk of PH giving him the full confidence to decide the transition date, various news outlets claimed the meeting on Friday was heated.

PH seems split into two factions: One that wants Dr Mahathir to extend his term until the next general election, and the another that is demanding the power transition to Anwar.

Yesterday, the Opposition PAS decided to drop its plan to table a vote of confidence for Dr Mahathir following its presidential council voicing unreserved confidence in the prime minister’s undated transition plan.

The Islamist party’s secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said it was no longer relevant to push for such a motion because the ruling coalition’s decision yesterday “can effectively stop undemocratic attempts to unseat a sitting prime minister.”

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