Anwar's smooth political transition in sight: The Star columnist

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, according to political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador, is playing the long game. With time on his side, he is prepared to wait and will not be drawn into any plot or intrigue.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, according to political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador, is playing the long game. With time on his side, he is prepared to wait and will not be drawn into any plot or intrigue.PHOTO: ST FILE

In her commentary, the writer says Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is prepared to play the long game.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been juggling many balls the last one week.

The Rantau by-election campaign has fallen squarely on his shoulders.

He is the star on the campaign trail because nobody seems really interested in what the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate, Dr S. Streram, has to say.

The PKR team senses that their boss is in an energetic mood even though the prospect of a win is growing dimmer by the day.

For months, Anwar had been trying hard to douse the perception that a vote of no confidence was brewing in the current session of Parliament.

Even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is ever watchful of political danger, had been suspicious.

That has gone a long way in easing suspicions over the succession issue, according to the Jalan Gasing circle, as the group associated with Anwar's Jalan Gasing office is known by.

More important, it has helped ease the rather touchy relationship between Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar.

It is likely that Dr Mahathir is slowly but surely coming around to the opinion that Mr Anwar is not in a hurry to take over and that he will respect the two-year tenure set for Dr Mahathir.

The Prime Minister knows that time is against him.

What he does not want is to be pushed out before he is ready to go.

"The trust level has improved and the succession issue has also become clearer, judging by Anwar's level of confidence," said a PKR insider.

The insider said Mr Anwar made it a point to meet the Prime Minister at least once a month and occasionally even once or twice a week.

On Friday, despite his busy schedule, Anwar had a 40-minute meeting with Dr Mahathir.

"The good thing is that the PM makes time for him. Talking helps clear the air. If you don't meet to talk, you are left guessing about the other person," said the insider.

The rather modest PKR anniversary gathering to mark the party's 20th year last Thursday was also seen as a gesture to downplay the political significance.

The party was set up in protest against Dr Mahathir for sacking Mr Anwar and a big celebration would have raked up buried antagonism.

Going by his words and actions the last one year, Mr Anwar is now older and wiser.

Earlier last week, when Dr Mahathir reiterated that "when I am done, Anwar will take over", Anwar had tweeted "Terima kasih, Tun".

Mr Anwar understands the older man much better than the first time around and he genuinely wants to give Dr Mahathir the space to govern.

There have been people coming to him to pour oil on fire but Mr Anwar has refused to go along. His political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador said Mr Anwar was known to avoid meeting such people.

Mr Anwar, said Farhash, is playing the long game. With time on his side, he is prepared to wait and will not be drawn into any plot or intrigue.

There has also been debate about whether the May 9 victory was due more to Dr Mahathir or Mr Anwar.

It is a silly argument because neither would have been able to pull it off without the other.

Moreover, most political victories are often due to the weaknesses and mistakes of the opposing side than to one's own strength.

 

Mr Anwar has moved carefully around Dr Mahathir and it was only recently that he has started going down to the Malay ground after the clear-cut Malay rejection in the Semenyih by-election.

It is understood that he had informed the Prime Minister about his plan to reach out to the Malay base and that was why he had begun in Dr Mahathir's home state.

The next few months will see him doing more of that in several other Malay-majority states.

According to Unisel vice-chancellor Redzuan Othman, Mr Anwar had spent most of last year travelling abroad to connect with old friends and to give the stage to Dr Mahathir.

"If he is around, the media will pester him for views on issues and his statements may be misinterpreted," said Prof Datuk Dr Redzuan.

The key issue in the impending succession is that both sides have to respect the two-year time frame and not do or say things that will cast doubts on the transition.

Mr Anwar, more than anyone else, wants a smooth transition.

Anything less than smooth will be problematic for him and he could end up overseeing an unstable government.

On the other hand, an attempt to pass the baton to anyone else other than Mr Anwar will have disastrous consequences. It may cause Pakatan Harapan to break apart and even cause the collapse of the government.

Pakatan's inability to deliver on its key election promises has seen netizens resorting to the Malay slang, "kencing rakyat" (pissing on the people) which translates as playing out the voters.

Not honouring the promised transition would be seen as Pakatan leaders pissing on their own partners. It would further erode the trust that people have in the government.

It is understood that Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin is also very supportive of a smooth transition. Tan Sri Muhyiddin was the running mate of Mr Anwar before the latter's fall from grace and they have since rekindled their friendship.

Mr Anwar would have no problem working with Mr Muhyiddin or even having him as his deputy when the time comes.

However, there are several contenders for the No. 2 post.

One of them is, of course, Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali and the other is Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof.

Dr Mahathir has a history of choosing not only his successor but also his successor's deputy.

However, all his choices have failed to live up to his expectation and it is time he discontinues the feudal practice.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister should be given time and space to do his work so that he will be ready to honour the two-year agreement when the time arrives.

The writer is a regular commentator with The Star. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.