PUTRAJAYA - Former Malaysian premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (July 18) 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 pact was “equal among each other” and no one would be sidelined.
Explaining that he was equivalent to the opposition’s “unofficial” prime minister designate Dr Mahathir said 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, where Dr Mahathir was made chairman, his jailed former deputy Anwar Ibrahim was appointed de facto leader and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail - Anwar’s wife and president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) - was named PH’s president.
But the pact stopped short of announcing its candidate for prime minister should it take power in the next election.
“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 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 (Harapan), I’m a top dog there,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday.
The veteran statesman clarified that there was no tiff between him and Dr Wan Azizah in terms in hierarchy.
Separately, Dr Wan Azizah said on Tuesday that PH will continue to make decisions based on consensus, addressing criticisms about who has final say in the three-headed line-up.
The 92-year-old Mahathir also 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,” he said.
At the peak of their fallout in 1998, when Dr Mahathir sacked Anwar from his post as deputy prime minister, Dr Mahathir had also said that Anwar was not fit to be prime minister for his “immoral” conduct.
Asked whether he still stood by his statement now, he 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 always denied and claimed were politically-motivated.
When asked when the opposition will announce its candidate for prime minister, Dr Mahathir said he wanted to keep the element of surprise.
Earlier in the press conference, Dr Mahathir challenged Datuk Seri Najib to a debate - dubbed Nothing to Hide 2.0 - at which he said they would both have the opportunity to clear their names regarding alleged financial scandals under their respective leaderships. The debate is tentatively scheduled for August 13 in Shah Alam, Selangor.