Mahathir: I'm top dog in Pakatan Harapan

Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre) holding up a poster for a debate he wants to hold with Prime Minister Najib Razak on alleged financial scandals under their respective premierships at a press conference yesterday.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre) holding up a poster for a debate he wants to hold with Prime Minister Najib Razak on alleged financial scandals under their respective premierships at a press conference yesterday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He says someone needs to lead in leadership structure with 3 heads

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad yesterday boldly claimed that he is the "top dog" in Pakatan Harapan (PH), now that he is the chairman of the four-party opposition pact.

His claim came days after he reportedly said that every party leader in the alliance was "equal among each other" and that no one would be sidelined.

Explaining that he was equivalent to the opposition's "unofficial" prime minister-designate, Tun Dr Mahathir said that someone needs to take the lead, as a country cannot have three prime ministers.

He was referring to PH's recently announced three-headed leadership structure.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

Jailed former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim is PH's de facto leader, while his wife and president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is PH's president.

But the opposition pact has stopped short of announcing its candidate for prime minister, should it form the government in the next election.

Said Dr Mahathir at a press conference yesterday: "Among the opposition, I am equivalent to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak... He's the top dog there (in the government).

EQUIVALENT TO PRIME MINISTER

Among the opposition, I am equivalent to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak... He's the top dog there (in the government). I'm one of the leaders (of PH) but it is agreed that I am a chairman. I will chair the presidential council and, to a certain extent, in the hierarchy in Pakatan, I'm a top dog there.

DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD, on his role in the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance.

"I'm one of the leaders (of PH), but it is agreed that I am a chairman.

"I will chair the presidential council and, to a certain extent, in the hierarchy in Pakatan, I'm a top dog there."

The veteran statesman also said there was no tiff between him and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah.

Dr Mahathir, 92, added that he is willing to accept his former nemesis Anwar as prime minister, if that is the wish of the people. "Yes, if that is what people want, why not."

At the peak of their fallout in 1998, when he sacked Anwar from his post as deputy prime minister, Dr Mahathir said that Anwar was not fit to be prime minister because of his "immoral" conduct.

Asked whether he still stood by his statement now, Dr Mahathir said: "I stand by my statement at that time.

"It depended on the circumstances prevailing at the time. I might change my mind again next year," he said.

After his sacking, Anwar was imprisoned for six years on charges of abuse of power and sodomy, charges he has denied and claimed were politically motivated.

Asked when the opposition will announce its candidate for prime minister, Dr Mahathir said he wanted to keep the element of surprise.

"We want to keep the people very surprised, we want to keep the government very surprised… this is all part of our election strategy."

Earlier in the press conference, Dr Mahathir also challenged Datuk Seri Najib to a debate - dubbed Nothing To Hide 2.0.

He said they would both have the opportunity to clear their names regarding alleged financial scandals under their respective leaderships.

Separately, Dr Wan Azizah yesterday said PH will continue to make decisions based on consensus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'Mahathir: I'm top dog in Pakatan Harapan'. Print Edition | Subscribe