KUALA LUMPUR - Several leaders of Malaysia's opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance on Sunday (Nov 28) came to the defence of its chief Anwar Ibrahim amid continuing calls for him to step down following the drubbing at the Melaka state polls last week.
A strong hint for Datuk Seri Anwar to step aside came from Mr Anthony Loke, national organising secretary of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a PH member with the most seats in the federal Parliament, that the alliance might want to stop insisting that Mr Anwar is the PH sole candidate for the post of prime minister.
PH should also consider its earlier decision to use a common banner in elections, Mr Loke said in an interview with Astro AEC that was aired on Saturday.
"During the May 9 (2018) election, people focused on the need for a common logo and having a prime ministerial candidate in order to inspire confidence in voters to support us.
"But after the May 9 election and three changes of governments, the model has changed," he said.
Social media and online news media have also been abuzz in the past week with views and debate among the opposition that Mr Anwar, 74, should groom younger leaders to take over, instead of insisting, that his two-decade quest to be prime minister should continue.
But several PH leaders have insisted that Mr Anwar is still the most popular opposition chief, and that PH needs to jointly discuss the way forward in the aftermath of the Melaka debacle.
Mr Fahmi Fadzil, communications director at Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), said Mr Loke's opinion does not represent that of PH as a bloc.
Such key decisions are made by the PH presidential council and not by individuals, Mr Fahmi said, as quoted by local media on Sunday.
PH consists of the DAP (which has 42 seats in Parliament), PKR (35 seats) and Parti Amanah Negara (11 seats). Their top leaders are members of the PH presidential council.
"I am sure many will agree that there is no opposition leader candidate who has more calibre and influence than Anwar," said PKR MP P. Prabakaran.
"I think Anwar does not have any problem for someone else to become the opposition leader as long as the reform agenda is being fought. But which other leader has as clear a reform vision as him?" the lawmaker said in a statement.
Mr Anwar last Wednesday acknowledged the calls for him to step down, but described them as an "opinion".
PH did not use its common banner - a white arrowhead-shaped triangle on a red background - in the 2018 general election, but used it in the Melaka state election.
The Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won 21 of the 28 Melaka seats, amid controversy in PH when Mr Anwar fielded two former Umno leaders, and dropped a popular PKR lawmaker, Ms Ginie Lim, who was not seen to be loyal to him.
PH won only five, a sharp drop from 15 seats it took in Melaka in the 2018 general election. PKR lost all its three seats.
PH scored 35.8 per cent of the Melaka votes at the Nov 20 polls, a steep drop from 51.11 per cent in the May 2018 general election.
BN garnered 38.4 per cent of the votes, a small rise from 37.8 per cent in 2018.
The third bloc in the Melaka polls, which was not there in the 2018 general election, was Perikatan Nasional (PN). The PN pact led by former premier Muhyiddin Yassin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Islam SeMalaysia was formed in the middle of last year.
PN and the others (smaller parties and independents) who contested in Melaka won 25.8 per cent of the votes. When PN was not there in 2018, the non-BN, non-PH contestants received only 11.1 per cent of total votes cast.