KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said he had rejected the proposal of him temporarily becoming deputy prime minister while Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister again, due to suspicions based on past negative experiences and as he believed it would lead to the old issue of power transition becoming a focus again.
The PKR president, however, also pointed out that the idea of Dr Mahathir being backed as prime minister candidate still lacked majority support from MPs.
Anwar stressed that PKR’s allies in Pakatan Harapan — DAP and Parti Amanah Negara — clearly back him to be the prime minister, but noted the second option of backing Dr Mahathir as prime minister and with Anwar as deputy prime minister temporarily had surfaced due to the need for majority support.
“The political reality is that, this is the strength of DAP and Amanah’s words, they told me, clearly, ‘Anwar, we want you to become prime minister. But the path is not easy, as we need numbers’.
“So there were some that believed Tun Mahathir could get the numbers, until today yet to obtain, the numbers are not there yet. But they believed, ‘if we give the support, he can get the numbers, and with that, then you can be lifted up’,” Anwar said in a short lecture that was aired live on his official Facebook page.
Anwar said he did not consider the second proposal — of having Dr Mahathir becoming prime minister for six months before Anwar succeeds him — as a betrayal from PH allies, but instead described it as a mere difference in opinion with his allies who were backing him.
“But we differed in opinion, because I said, I cannot accept because I am not confident this is the best for the country, for the people, for reforms, for the judiciary, for the media, for the anti-corruption programme and especially the country’s economy, to want to stop cronyism, enriching a small group.
“All that I am not confident that in six months, we can pursue such matters, and this is a big duty. Especially at the end of the year, we expect one million unemployed in our country, so it needs a big effort,” he added.
Given the economic challenges faced by the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Anwar also suggested that the same problem — of the spotlight on the handover of the prime minister post from Dr Mahathir to him — would quickly crop up if he were to be deputy prime minister for six months under the second option’s arrangement.
“The [Covid-19] economy is a pandemic economy that requires all the strength to think of issues of economic development… but if we say six months, in two months’ time, people will think about the Dr Mahathir-Anwar transition, it goes back to old matters,” he said.
Anwar also alluded to his painful past over 20 years ago, where he had held the position of deputy prime minister while Dr Mahathir was in his first stint as prime minister. The events in the 1990s had saw Anwar being sacked and imprisoned after being charged in court, but both he and Dr Mahathir had joined forces in the 2018 election and against the current ruling coalition.
Noting that his allies insisted on him temporarily becoming deputy prime minister under the second option before Dr Mahathir gives up the prime minister post, Anwar said he found it difficult to bear this arrangement and alluded to the situation possibly being seen as a repeat of old mistakes.
Earlier in the same Facebook ‘live’ session, Anwar claimed that Dr Mahathir had insisted on returning as prime minister for the third time but for a short period of six months, alleging however that PKR’s allies in PH had however also indicated their suspicions due to past experiences by saying that certain conditions must be met including signed agreements to ensure a power transition to Anwar takes place after six months.
Taking the opportunity to address various hot topics, Anwar said the PH coalition still remains strong despite PKR’s differences in opinion with its allies DAP and Amanah, pointing out that their pact was not newly formed as they had been working together since the coalition’s earlier iteration as Pakatan Rakyat.
Anwar said Pakatan Harapan should still work together with Dr Mahathir and Parti Warisan Sabah, noting that PH still remains firm in its goal of removing the current Perikatan Nasional coalition from power in order to fulfill the voters’ mandate in the 2018 general elections.
Anwar denied that PKR wanted to continue to remain merely as an opposition party, saying that efforts will still be continued to obtain majority support from MPs, but said this would not be done through threats or alleged “buying” of support with promise of positions in government-linked companies.
Anwar also said Gabungan Parti Sarawak — which is seen as a kingmaker crucial for federal power — is an independent entity representing Sarawakians and should be given the freedom to make their own decisions.
Anwar also said that he was still open to discussions with allies, but stressed that it would be hard for him to accept the second proposal.
On May 18, PH secretary-general and PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail claimed that its discussions with Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu faction and Parti Warisan Sabah had not resulted in conclusive decisions on the proposal of Dr Mahathir as its prime ministerial candidate.
On June 19, DAP organising secretary Anthony Loke and Amanah communications director Khalid Abdul Samad claimed that Pakatan Harapan (PH) had agreed on two options during a meeting on May 30.
Loke and Khalid had said the first option was for Anwar as the prime minister candidate, while the second option — in the event the first option fails to garner sufficient support from MPs — is for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to once again helm the post with Anwar as the deputy prime minister.
Loke and Khalid had then expressed hopes that PKR would accept the second option, since the first option allegedly did not get majority support from MPs.