DEMOCRATIC Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament Tony Pua has insisted Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim remains as the Pakatan Harapan’s potential candidate for prime minister and this fact has never changed. Pua’s remark is of course timely since former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had recently named Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the top pick for the post if the opposition wins the forthcoming general election while speaking at a lecture in London last week.
The former premier did however qualify that Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s appointment would be contingent on whether the opposition coalition accepts him to become Malaysia’s next leader. The comments come just weeks after the friendly handshake between Tun Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar, which was undoubtedly a Kodak moment leading to talk of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Yet one cannot help but feel that there remains uncertainty or even uneasiness on both sides. The difference of opinion over who will lead the country is significant and points to a possible tussle between the opposition coalition and the former strongman even before some form of formal partnership is established.
For the opposition they have generally agreed that the country’s top leadership post would always be for Datuk Seri Anwar. But with the opposition leader presently carrying out his jail term the possibility of him returning to the political stage seems unlikely. Consequently Datuk Seri Anwar’s absence has created a political vacuum in the opposition, which had relied on him to keep them together.
Over the past few months Tun Dr. Mahathir is seen as gradually assuming the position of de facto leader for the opposition. Of course there remain reservations among certain segments in the opposition of working alongside Tun Dr. Mahathir and his newly former party Bersatu, particularly those loyal to Datuk Seri Anwar.
Nonetheless, Pakatan Harapan realizes it needs a strong Malay-centric partner to appeal to rural voters, long regarded as solid supporters of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). Markedly, there is concern Parti Amanah Negara (PAN), splinter group of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), may not be ready in time for the next general election or possibly garner the much needed Malay votes.
It remains to be seen if Bersatu is the much-needed conduit to help the opposition form an electoral pact to mount a meaningful challenge to UMNO. A pact of some sort is likely and necessary if the opposition is to avoid three or cornered fights in the next general election. But with the opposition and Bersatu already divided over the choice of candidate for the premiership it is blatantly obvious that there is still many issues that the two sides need to thrash out so that it can move forward in a cohesive manner.
The opposition coalition and Bersatu will need to prove that they can work in tandem not only for the forthcoming general elections but afterwards as well. The ruling Barisan Nasional strength lies in the fact that it works well with its other coalition partners.
In the 2008 and 2013 general election, the opposition had shown that it can garner the votes by having close cooperation but subsequently this alliance faltered. Tan Sri Muhyiddin has stated that the opposition is expected to hammer out a new alliance by the end of the year. All eyes will undoubtedly be watching Pakatan Harapan along with Bersatu if they are able to achieve their endeavor. Stay tuned.
Casius Junut is an independent political analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly his personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.