Commentary Politics

Make no mistake, Mahathir still very much the boss

Mahathir (left) has cemented his hold on Malaysian politics even firmer to lave Anwar still waiting.

Written by Aziz Hassan

February 22, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

MUCH of the previews mentioned about the likelihood of something earth-shattering emerging at the end of last night’s Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting but as with most speculations on other similar situations, the conclusion was very much an anti-climax.

Instead of providing a clearer path to Putrajaya for PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, the decision by the council only reinforces the hold Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has on power and leaves the decision on the transition of power after the APEC Summit in November entirely in his hands. Mahathir’s remarks at the press conference after the meeting also made it very clear that he – only he – will decide when he should retire as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister.

The best Anwar could offer was to repeat his oft stated point about giving Mahathir the space and time to rule as best as he possibly could, with Anwar adding that he can only exercise patience.

There was an online news portal report that talked about Mahathir being pressured at the meeting set a firm date for the succession and also of a threat by a group from Mahathir’s Pribumi Bersatu to abandon the ruling coalition if too much pressure was applied on Mahathir to commit a date for the handover. Apparently there were two strong voices on this but this did not move those present enough to back them.

On the contrary Mahathir was to tell the press conference that the decision was unanimous and without any press reports otherwise, everyone not at the meeting will have to take his word for it and if true, it is another reflection of some hypocrisy among the council members at work.

Unanimous or not what last night’s decision has done is to render the staunch pro-Anwar groups irrelevant for now

The other significant consequence of this latest decision is its effect on the staunchest of Anwar’s supporters like the Otai Reformis group or at times referred to as Otai Reformasi who had in recent times upped the ante to try and force Mahathir’s hand into retiring as PM7 by May, as was originally agreed to by Pakatan just before the national elections on May 9, 2018. What do these supporters say now and will some of them go ahead with the veiled threat of organising street protests similar to the ones in 1998?

Ponder for a minute longer and you would probably agree that what last night’s decision did is to render these supporters irrelevant because Anwar cannot be publicly seen or known to be urging them to again pressure Mahathir to go before APEC. What these supporters have yet to comprehend is how Anwar plays his politics. Many of his closest backers from the 1998 era have jumped ship after realising that they were essentially left in a lurch at crucial moments, essentially because of a shift in Anwar’s political alignment.

It must be said again though that despite what was agreed at last night, there is no guarantee Anwar will finally be able to take over the chair in Putrajaya because apart from what the council decides, more crucially he must be able to convince the Agong that he commands the majority support of Parliamentarians, which at the moment he doesn’t seem to have.

If he fails to make peace with rival factions within his PKR post APEC, the road to Putrajaya will most likely be littered with potholes or even the more damaging sinkholes for Anwar, with parties like PAS and Umno expected to again campaign for a vote one way or the other to deny him achieving his long-held ambition of becoming the prime minister. What his backers and believers must understand and accept is that no one is bound by law to agree with the Pakatan council’s decision.

It should be back to business as usual for the government from now, which should be good for the country because a distraction like this transition plan is so unnecessary, especially in these tough economic times which need the undivided focus of the government..

But yes, expect everyone to resume talking about who becomes PM8 after November’s APEC.   



About the author


Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.