Is Pakatan imploding, or is it still about Dr M vs Anwar?

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has reminded colleagues in his own PKR and allies in the other three components to stop airing their dirty laundry in public. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has reminded colleagues in his own PKR and allies in the other three components to stop airing their dirty laundry in public. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 ― All is not entirely well within the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH), as some of its leaders have said over the past few weeks.

From Nurul Izzah Anwar's shock resignation of PKR and government posts to PKR MP Datuk Johari Abdul's criticism of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and a claim by Amanah’s Jasin parliamentary coordinator Khairuddin Abu Hassan of a “grand design” to topple the prime minister, the question is whether or not PH is imploding after eight months?

The situation has come to a point where top PH leaders like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has to remind colleagues in his own PKR and allies in the other three components to stop airing their dirty laundry in public.

There are also concerns that the current infighting within PH is reminiscent of what happened 20 years ago, when Anwar and Dr Mahathir held the top two government posts.

Anwar vs Dr M?

At one end of the PH spectrum are leaders unhappy with PPBM opening its doors to immediate past Umno members, seeing it as going against their reform agenda as well as an attempt to beef up the youngest component party’s ranks before Dr Mahathir passes the prime ministership to Anwar.

There are rumours of a plan underway to derail the so-called succession plan when the time comes, and that PPBM's increased numbers in the form of former Umno lawmakers would help achieve that end.

“If you want reforms, do it. Pakatan already has a majority in Parliament, why the need to bring in Umno people to Pakatan?

“Stop worrying about who is going to be PM. If you have made a promise, keep to it,” PKR's Datuk Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid told Malay Mail when contacted.

A few months ago, the Kapar MP claimed to have proof of a conspiracy to prevent Anwar from becoming the next prime minister ― something which he maintains to this day.

Abdullah Sani said what worried some senior PH members is the fact that the present central leadership seems less concerned about seeing through proper reforms than in maintaining political dominance within the coalition.

“Taking in Umno detractors is running away from the original agenda. Whichever side within PH who does not accept Anwar, is pushing for ex-Umno MPs to enter PH,” he claimed.

“People are worried about cost of living, the economy, that should be the focus,” he added.

Dr Mahathir and other PPBM leaders have maintained that only ex-Umno leaders who are free from corruption would be allowed in the party via a stringent vetting process.

At the end of the 14th general election, PPBM won 13 federal seats in comparison to PKR which has 50 seats, DAP with 42 seats and Amanah holds 11 seats.

Currently PPBM has 16 seats, after it accepted into its ranks ex-Umno leaders like Jeli MP Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and former Puteri Umno chief Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin who is Masjid Tanah MP.

At the other end of the PH spectrum are those claims of a “grand design” that question Dr Mahathir's leadership and decisions as PM with the intent of removing him from power.

But when contacted, PPBM supreme council member Abu Bakar Yahya said talks of a power tussle between Anwar and Dr Mahathir was just an issue of “perception” that can be resolved with better communication.

He said the mandate given by Malaysians in GE14 was for Dr Mahathir to be prime minister, and to accord the latter the space and time needed to carry out all promised reforms.

“The people gave a mandate for Tun to be prime minister in GE14, therefore the people's interests and wishes must be upheld.

“Do your work, and there shouldn't be any problem,” said Abu Bakar, who is also Dr Mahathir's political secretary.

Let cooler heads prevail

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang has called for PH leaders to first consult their own parties and get approvals before making any public statement against their coalition partners; to cease and desist from attacks; and agree to a standard operating procedure when it comes to expressing critical opinions of each other.

PPBM chief strategist Datuk Rais Hussin said that while a difference of views should be celebrated, there were many avenues within PH where leaders could choose to air their grouses, such as the PH secretariat or even the presidential council.

“The other issue is that we must remember this coalition is relatively new, so while we may be used to a coalition that is 61 years old, and one where its members know each other well if people were to expect PH to behave and react like BN then it is very unjust,” he told Malay Mail.

Rais said that PH should form a “dispute resolution committee” tasked at getting feedback and complaints from leaders and members.

“The committee will then report to the PH presidential council and any dispute can be brought up internally. Isn't that better rather than attacking each other in public?

“I think PH leaders should be the heroes of the people, not heroes for themselves,” Rais added.

When asked about a possible power tussle between Anwar and Dr Mahathir, Rais said that is not what is happening within PH.

“This is wishful thinking on the part of some who want this,” he said.

*A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected. 

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