KUALA LUMPUR – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has announced that he will be contesting for party presidency, a decision seen as strengthening his stand in the new government.
In a statement on Sunday (July 15), Mr Anwar, 70, said he made the decision after discussing with his wife who is also party president, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and other leaders.
“After discussing with Azizah, the deputy president and the leadership, and after taking into account the views and needs of PKR...I offer myself to contest the position of PKR president,” he said in the statement.
“God willing, if I receive the mandate from the party grassroots throughout the whole country, I will steer the party as president after the completion of PKR’s national congress which will be held in November 2018,” Mr Anwar added.
PKR polls will be held end of August, with nominations for candidacy on July 29.
Mr Anwar had served as deputy prime minister in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government then, and was heir-apparent until his sacking in 1998.
PKR, one of the four parties in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, was formed after his eventual imprisonment in 1999.
The coalition, led by Tun Dr Mahathir, pulled off a stunning victory in the recent general election and in forming his government, the 93-year-old leader appointed Dr Wan Azizah, 65, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Women and Family Development.
Since his release, Mr Anwar has met with several Malay rulers, including Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
He also travelled abroad to Britain and Turkey, where he had surgery done on his shoulder on July 12.
Mr Anwar has made known his intentions to return to politics in a by-election but did not offer any specific dates.
His supporters have also called on him to begin the transition to lead PKR, become an elected lawmaker and eventually prime minister.
The ruling coalition had agreed prior to the general election that Dr Mahathir will be prime minister in the first two years of the term, with Mr Anwar as prime minister-in-waiting.
Political analysts see Mr Anwar’s move as solidifying his standing within the coalition, as the de facto leader title is not a legally recognised post by the Registrar of Societies.
Throughout history, all Malaysian prime ministers were heads of their political party.
“Becoming PKR president creates a much smoother transition, going forward, as he carries through with plan to become prime minister,” said Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at University of Tasmania.
“By announcing this now, he’s ensuring there’s no challenge within PKR for the presidency post,” Prof Chin added.