Anwar could be Malaysia's next PM, claims PKR V-P

If opposition wins polls, Wan Azizah can use power as interim PM to get leader freed from jail

Imprisoned Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim can become Malaysia's prime minister if the opposition wins the next general election, said party vice-president Rafizi Ramli.

In his winding-up speech at the party's congress yesterday, Mr Rafizi explained that the party's interim prime minister-designate, PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar's wife, could use her power to get him released from prison.

Mr Rafizi said Anwar could then be made a lawmaker through a by-election, before being made prime minister.

"People say PKR is delusional in claiming Anwar is PM when he is still sitting behind bars, but it is possible," he said in his speech yesterday. "Wan Azizah will be interim PM and then Anwar will be PM.

"I am confident that she can help him to be released and a by-election can be called for in a month or two to make him PM."

The move by the PKR leader to name a prime ministerial candidate is significant because the opposition has been frequently taunted by ruling party Umno as not being ready to govern the country as it could not even agree on who will next lead South-east Asia's third-biggest economy.

Mr Rafizi had previously mooted the idea that an opposition government could apply for a royal pardon for Anwar, who is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (second from left) films the progress of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) 14th Annual National Congress, as (from left) Democratic Action Party adviser Lim Kit Siang, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (second from left) films the progress of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) 14th Annual National Congress, as (from left) Democratic Action Party adviser Lim Kit Siang, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail hold "Anwar the 7th PM" placards at the Dewan Raja Muda Musa in Shah Alam yesterday. PHOTO: THE STAR

Mr Rafizi said the matter had already been agreed on by the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara, both members of opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan. The other members are PKR and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), formed by former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

The MP for Pandan, Selangor, also stressed that Anwar was a victim of political enemies, who were behind his imprisonment.

He reminded PKR's elected representatives to remember Anwar for his sacrifice.

"When we go back to our constituencies, we are indebted to Anwar. If it wasn't for him, we won't have our seats," said Mr Rafizi. "We have to repay back his gratitude by making him PM."

But the party's grand plan hinges on whether the opposition can win the next election now that Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has severed ties with PKR.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah, last week said she will defend her Lembah Pantai seat even though three-cornered fights involving PAS tend to benefit the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.

Anwar lambasted the Islamist party from behind prison bars yesterday, saying its decision to sever ties with PKR had been a long time coming.

In his statement, which was read out by Ms Nurul Izzah at the congress, he said PAS has been friendly towards Umno for some time.

"They (PAS) did not oppose the goods and services tax budget, the rise in fuel and sugar prices, and did not participate in the (pro-democracy) Bersih 5 rally," he said.

Another potential fly in PKR's ointment is the fact that PPBM, the fourth member of Pakatan Harapan, has yet to endorse Anwar as the opposition's choice for prime minister.

Tun Mahathir's son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, said yesterday that while the candidate ought to be announced before the election, the matter should be discussed properly between the parties before an announcement is made.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'Anwar could be Malaysia's next PM, claims PKR V-P'. Print Edition | Subscribe