Anwar leads race to be Opposition’s pick for PM, but die likely already cast in Ismail Sabri’s favour

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media after an audience with the King at Istana Negara, August 17, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media after an audience with the King at Istana Negara, August 17, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — Pakatan Harapan (PH) and other Opposition parties would fully back PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to be the next prime minister if he could get rival lawmakers to support his bid, sources said.

The sources and insiders privy to the negotiations confirmed to Malay Mail that Anwar currently has 105 federal lawmakers on his side, not enough for a simple majority.

A simple majority would usually be 112 in the 222-seat Parliament but was now 111 due to two vacancies that could not be filled due to the pandemic. Securing 111 MPs would, however, put the matter beyond doubt.

Warisan Youth’s chief and Sepanggar MP Datuk Azis Jamman revealed yesterday that his party’s support for Anwar was conditional on the latter being able to secure the additional lawmakers needed.

A PKR insider told Malay Mail that the condition was not just imposed by Warisan but also other Opposition parties and independent MPs as well.

“That is the case now. Anwar needs support from former Perikatan Nasional (PN) government MPs as well.

“Be it from Umno or even GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), six MPs must support Anwar,” said the source.

PH represents the largest single bloc in the Dewan Rakyat with 88 MPs. Warisan has eight MPs while Tun Dr Mahahir Mohamad's Parti Pejuang Tanah Air has four, Parti Sarawak Baru has two while Upko has one. Six independent lawmakers are also in the Opposition.

Among the independents, four are former PKR members who left to support Perikatan Nasional while the remaining two — the head of the still unregistered Malaysia United Democratic Alliance (Muda) Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and former education minister Maszlee Malik — are seen as friendly towards PH.

Another source from PKR who knew of the negotiations with the East Malaysian parties further revealed that an offer was made to Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal for him to be the deputy prime minister, with an added promise to cater more to the demands of Sabah and Sarawak.

The person explained that the demands of the parties from the Borneo states was for the restoration of the two states’ special rights in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963, which had also been promised by both PH and Perikatan Nasional previously.

“Yes, there are negotiations ongoing regarding the matter of supporting Anwar, however no confirmation could be made public as of now,” said the source.

The same source also said the most priority for the East Malaysian parties is the path towards the restoration of the special rights of Sabah and Sarawak, as stipulated under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 — which both PN and PH government previously had promised.

Another PH insider said the Opposition was bullish that Anwar would be able to secure the outside support needed due to the solid base of 105 lawmakers already in his corner.

“No one has more support than Anwar at Dewan Rakyat now. That is a fact. To ensure the new government could resolve the situation and continue to bring Malaysia out of the pandemic and economic crisis, MPs should lend their support to him,” said the source.

However, this assertion could be in doubt after it was revealed that Umno and Barisan Nasional lawmakers have unanimously agreed to back Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as their nominee last night.

A group of 10 Umno holdouts who had been Ismail Sabri’s last hurdle to the nomination have now been convinced to rejoin the fold.

Separately, Shafie said last night that the agreement was that the Opposition would back either him or Anwar, depending on which of the two could secure the additional parliamentarians needed to achieve a simple majority.

Shafie said he and Anwar both agreed that the one who did so would receive the undivided support of the Opposition while the other must concede.

Anwar and other political party leaders were called to the palace yesterday for an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

When leaving Istana Negara, Anwar said the Agong had called for a “new political landscape” that would allow the country to recover from the pandemic.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun issued a notice yesterday instructing the MPs to submit statutory declarations to Istana Negara on their candidate for the next prime minister.

The MPs have until 4pm today to do so.

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

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