KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 ― Public attention is focused on the Pakatan Harapan presidential meeting today for clarity on the coalition’s transition plan but sources said the event will be more crucial for charting its political survival.
They said the council is expected to give greater attention on how to retain support heading into the next election but acknowledged that the topic of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s promised succession of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was unavoidable.
Anwar previously issued a public statement asserting that the PH council will finalise the timeline for the transition at today’s meeting but Dr Mahathir has said he did not know if this will be discussed.
“We think Anwar is going to play hardball [today] on the succession plan. He is under a lot of pressure from his supporters,” said one PH source.
“We think he will want to talk about the succession and press Dr Mahathir on the issue.”
Reinforcing Anwar’s statement was his political secretary, Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal, who asserted that the issue will undoubtedly be raised.
However, he insisted that this would not take priority over other matters.
“The discussion will include the transition of power but the meat of it will be issues on the interest of the public,” Farhash claimed.
Speculation about the indefinite timeline on the transition has opened the door for rivals to use the topic as fodder for their attempts to try and split the four-party coalition.
Opposition party PAS said it will table an unusual motion of confidence in Dr Mahathir in a bid to show that there was support for him to remain as prime minister notwithstanding the transition plan.
Beyond that, rumours that 138 federal lawmakers have signed statutory declarations of their desire for Dr Mahathir to remain as the PM have also refused to die down despite denials from PH leaders.
Despite the developments, a senior leader from Parti Amanah Negara played down the importance of fixing a date for the transition plan and said it was not officially part of the meeting’s agenda.
“Yes, the transition might be discussed but we have more pressing matters in the government itself as the leaders are also ministers.
“That would be discussed and touch more importantly than other things such as the SD,” he told Malay Mail on condition of anonymity.
One DAP leader suggested there could be a simple announcement about the transition could be made after the meeting to appease Anwar’s supporters but said this would not be anything firm.
The person said there were more urgent national matters that needed the council’s attention such as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) sweeping the region, and pointed out that both leaders have repeatedly affirmed their commitment to the plan.
“[Dr Mahathir] has time and time again said he will step down after Apec this year. So you think it might be something similar like that [statement] so that the media could write,” said the DAP leader.
“Moreover, the government recently proposed stimulus packages to boost the economy and cushion the impact in the wake of more job losses that will be definitely be used as ammo by the Opposition to attack PH if we could not address it,” said the leader, who refused to be named.
Other topics that will reportedly be discussed during the meeting include the Sarawak state election, after Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg hinted earlier this month that this could occur before his term expires next year.
However, political analyst Oh Ei Sun said the transition plan should take precedence over other matters requiring the PH council’s attention, arguing that definitively settling this would indirectly solve some related problems.
Oh asserted that allowing the matter to fester would continue distracting both the public and the ruling coalition, besides opening PH up to continued attacks from the Opposition.
“The power struggle between Dr Mahathir and Anwar is at the crux of the matter. As long as that is not resolved, the preoccupation with political maneuvers over economic stewardship will continue, and the country will continue to suffer socio-economic hardship.
“A compromise solution has to be reached between the two sides, such as appointing a compromise figure to take over,” said the senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.