Malaysian opposition divided over choice of PM candidate

Dr Mahathir wants Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin (left) to be prime minister if the opposition topples Barisan Nasional at the next polls. However, the DAP said there should not be any further talk on who will become prime minister as it was prev
Dr Mahathir wants Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin (left) to be prime minister if the opposition topples Barisan Nasional at the next polls. However, the DAP said there should not be any further talk on who will become prime minister as it was previously decided that Anwar Ibrahim (right) would assume the post if the opposition won. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

Ex-premier Mahathir proposes Muhyiddin but other parties continue to support Anwar

PETALING JAYA • Fissures have emerged among Malaysian opposition leaders over who the next premier will be if the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak crashes out in the next general election.

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad, now the chairman of the new opposition party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or Bersatu (United), stirred up a hornet's nest recently when he touted Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin as Datuk Seri Najib's successor if the opposition topples the Barisan Nasional at the next polls. Tan Sri Muhyiddin was sacked by Mr Najib from Umno in June after he criticised the premier.

"At the moment, we are not saying anything except that, if the opposition wins, the most likely prime minister will be Muhyiddin," Dr Mahathir said at a lecture in London last week.

"But it depends on his party, whether they will elect him as president, and it depends on the coalition, who should be the prime minister," he said, referring to opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan.

Dr Mahathir, 92, also discussed the possible role he could play in a Muhyiddin administration.

"The future prime minister will not have a free hand because in the new party, we have not only the president but also a chairman," he said. "Of course, he has a Cabinet. But Cabinet sometimes can be so obliged to the prime minister because he appoints them, so they do not put up any resistance."

"The new party - we make sure the power of the president will be subjected to an agreement with a group of people within the party," he added. Dr Mahathir is the chairman of Bersatu (United).

His remarks, which were reported yesterday, were quickly dismissed by the Pakatan Harapan alliance, consisting of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara.

DAP's acting national chairman Tan Kok Wai said there should not be any further talk on who will become prime minister as it was previously decided that jailed leader Anwar Ibrahim would assume the post if the opposition won.

Anwar is the de facto leader of PKR, which is headed by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is the opposition leader in Parliament.

PKR's vice-president Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin said although Dr Mahathir had a right to air his personal views on the matter, he should not "fluster" anyone.

"Dr Mahathir knows that the people's choice is always Anwar as in the past election, 52 per cent of popular voters chose him to lead the pact," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Muhyiddin yesterday said the opposition expects to hammer out a new alliance by the end of the year as more Umno members plan to jump ship.

A government spokesman dismissed Mr Muhyiddin's statement as a ploy to revive his career.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian opposition divided over choice of PM candidate'. Print Edition | Subscribe