Why the indecision? Sources claim Dr Mahathir, Anwar ‘not talking to each other’ over PM post

Radzi Razak
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during a press conference with Pakatan Harapan and Warisan MPs in Shah Alam October 6, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and PKR were yesterday pressured by their own Pakatan Harapan (PH) allies to decide whether they agree with an alliance again to be led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The continued impasse of Pakatan Plus — which includes Parti Warisan Sabah and Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia faction — to determine its prime minister candidate is believed to be down to a communication breakdown between the two candidates.

Several sources within the pact told Malay Mail that both leaders have not communicated directly with each other since last week, after the much-publicised Pakatan Plus meeting at the PKR headquarters which sparked the deadline for the decision on Tuesday.

“Anwar was supposed to give his decision on [Tuesday], but could not get agreement with other PH parties,” one source from PKR said.

Another source confirmed that two subsequent meetings of PH and Pakatan Plus that occurred during the weekend and on Tuesday were not attended by either Anwar or Dr Mahathir.

“The suggestion for Anwar to become PM has yet to be accepted by Tun Dr Mahathir’s side as well as Parti Warisan Sabah,” said the source.

“As of now, both of the leaders are not talking directly with each other, sending their ‘messengers’ to meetings.”

Yesterday, DAP organising secretary Anthony Loke said both his party and Parti Amanah Negara are backing Dr Mahathir to become prime minister, with PKR the only party yet to do so.

Loke also said that DAP had initially agreed to a PH proposal for Anwar to be prime minister, with disputed Bersatu deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as the deputy. But the suggestion was rejected by Warisan, leading PH to return to the “fallback” plan of a Dr Mahathir-Anwar duo.

In order to finalise the decision, PH must reach a consensus. Loke said the ball is now figuratively in Anwar’s court, as PH had agreed to let him decide by Tuesday.

Anwar’s indecision ostensibly led to DAP breaking its silence on the issue on Tuesday.

Prior to that, PH supporters had since Monday used the hashtag #DemiMalaysiA on social media, pleading for the cooperation between the two leaders in order to defeat the Perikatan Nasional government.

The campaign is a desperate attempt to appeal to both Dr Mahathir and Anwar to reconcile, as the pact faces a deadlock and the reality remains that it has a slim chance of regaining Putrajaya without both parties’ cooperation.

Is Anwar canvassing support alone?

Several sources have suggested that Anwar is currently seeking support to be a prime minister candidate from East Malaysian politicians on his own.

One of the conditions for the Dr Mahathir-Anwar combination has been for Anwar to acquire a show of support from both Sabah and Sarawak.

One source also told Malay Mail that Anwar has spoken to Sarawak party leaders on Tuesday, and is even seeking audience with some Malay Rulers in order to legitimise himself as the candidate.

“Anwar will have better support if Sarawak MPs support him, and that can force Dr Mahathir’s allies to side with him as the next PM too,” said the source.

Other sources confirmed that Anwar was in Kuching earlier this week, but Malay Mail could not verify the purpose of Anwar’s visit there at the time of writing.

The stalling for now may be in order to give time for Anwar to receive backing, sources suggested.

Amid pressure from their own allies, some PKR leaders seemed to have doubled down on their position to back Anwar instead of Dr Mahathir.

Last night, PKR organising secretary Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad named Anwar as PH’s best choice for the prime minister candidate, citing a need for a “fresh start” for the country.

Nik Nazmi also denied that PH has its PM candidate decided, although Anwar had said otherwise earlier.

One source from PKR also accused Dr Mahathir’s faction of allegedly reneging on its promise before negotiations even started.

“Last week, they said six months [before power transition], this week it is one year,” said the source, claiming the latest development that happened in a secret Pakatan Plus meeting over the weekend.

“We still did not forget what happened before he and PH lost everything,” said the source, referring to Dr Mahathir’s shock resignation which ostensibly caused the fall of the PH administration.

Perak PKR chief and Anwar’s political secretary Mohd Farhash Wafa Salvador also released a statement late last night chastising DAP and Amanah for forcing Anwar’s hands, saying that both parties have not reciprocated Anwar’s two-decade “friendship” with them.

“Anwar faced many challenges and often labeled as being too liberal and distant from the Malay community for his loyalty to DAP. 

“The actions and statement by DAP and Amanah for not standing firm behind Anwar is disheartening and unbecoming of a leader,” he said.

Farhash also insisted that PKR’s way forward is to never let Anwar and Malaysians “be taken for a ride ever again”.

Amid the internal tension, PH also faces the possibility of Anwar taking the 38 MPs in PKR completely out of the PH pact, that was formed after the dissolution of Pakatan Rakyat with PAS in 2015.

A PKR source admitted that the possibility was put forth in a PH meeting last week, but declined to elaborate further.

“Yes, there is an option of PKR going alone, without PH,” said the PKR source. “Time will tell.”

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