Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim unexpectedly announced his decision to withdraw as Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) choice for prime minister last week. He urged the opposition parties to focus their energy on winning the forthcoming general elections and to not be engrossed over who should be the coalition’s premier candidate. It was indeed a timely move after what appeared to be a tussle between Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the rest of the coalition members. Ironically the matter was never called into question until Tun Dr. Mahathir joined the opposition coalition. For the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Amanah, Datuk Seri Anwar has always been the main candidate.
Initially Tun Dr. Mahathir promoted Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the next prime minister in the event the opposition won. This proposal was of course rebuffed by the coalition partners, who insisted Datuk Seri Anwar remains the prime minister-in waiting. On his part, Tun Dr. Mahathir remained reluctant to endorse his former protégé for the top post insofar as refusing to hold up placards with “Anwar as the 7th PM” printed on it during the People’s Justice Party national congress. Then in a recent interview with Nikkei Asian Review, Malaysians were given a shocking dose of reality when the strongman expressed his willingness to temporarily step in as prime minister if there was no acceptable candidate following an opposition win. To this Tun Dr. Mahathir later added that he would be willing to do so only if it was unanimously agreed by the other coalition partners. Malaysians were left dazed to say the least.
Datuk Seri Anwar’s action will likely allow PH to move forward after nearly a year of wrangling over the leadership post. Meanwhile Lim Kit Siang has called for a moratorium on disputes to avert the negative news that had been plaguing PH. Yet this may prove difficult given that Tun Dr. Mahathir has always been his own man. Never one to mince words the former leader is now undoubtedly determine more than ever to set the course for the opposition coalition including a second chance to helm the country.