Critical path lies ahead for Pakatan as it debates choice of Malaysia's prime minister

Former Malaysian deputy prime pinister and Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) president Muhyiddin Yassin delivers his speech during the PPBM's first annual general assembly meeting in Shah Alam on Dec 30, 2017.
Former Malaysian deputy prime pinister and Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) president Muhyiddin Yassin delivers his speech during the PPBM's first annual general assembly meeting in Shah Alam on Dec 30, 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The presidential council of Malaysia's opposition alliance is meeting on Thursday (Jan 4) afternoon to determine whether the coalition enters general election intact or divided over the question of who will be their prime minister candidate.

Dissenting voices over the choice of Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, for the top job have grown louder over the last few days and it will not be easy for those supporting him to push it through at the meeting.

Multiple sources in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) claimed that its chief Anwar Ibrahim, who is behind bars, has also sent out word that he will not support Dr Mahathir for the top post even if he cannot stop it from going ahead.

It is understood that PKR's political bureau has endorsed Anwar's stand.

The meeting is slated to start at 4pm.

The four PH members are PKR, Dr Mahathir's pro-Malay Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), the Chinese-centric Democratic Action Party and moderate Islamic party Parti Amanah Negara.

PKR leaders will take the position that there is no need to name a prime minister candidate and that the priority is to win the general election first.

 

They say Anwar does not believe that Dr Mahathir, 92, represents the reform agenda that they have fought for since 1998.

They also do not buy the elder statesman's promised reform measures such as fighting corruption, press freedom and judicial independence.

In short, PKR leaders do not believe that the man who created the mess is the best person to clear up the mess.

Or as one of them put it: "He is still blaming others for the mistakes he made instead of taking responsibility,"

Dr Mahathir's candidature has the support of DAP, Amanah and his own PPBM.

The former premier's name will go through if the meeting opts to take a vote on the matter.

However, he will have problems if the decision is by consensus because the PKR leaders will not come along.

It is ironic thatAnwar, the man whom Dr Mahathir had once blocked from becoming prime minister, is now is now blocking him from the same job.

Those opposed to Dr Mahathir admit that he has the most experience among the PH leaders. He was prime minister between 1981 and 2003.

However, he is seen as a recycled candidate and comes with too much baggage.

He has also turned out to be a quarrelsome old man who likes to blame everyone but himself for all the controversial issues that happened during his 22 years in power.

During his inaugural "Policy Talk" session recently, he started another fire by calling Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang "kafir", or an infidel, which upset PKR leaders who feel they do not need more enemies ahead of the general election.

PAS has left the opposition alliance and is now leaning towards ruling party Umno who is led by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The last few days have seen analysts and PH politicians proposing younger alternative names for the prime minister job.

Among the names mooted for the two top jobs are Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali, PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin, PPBM deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir and PKR's vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar.