pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE air is heavy with anticipation over today’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council meeting, specifically concerning the timeline for the passing of the prime minister’s (PM) baton from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) to PM-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Several analysts and newspaper columnists had speculated that “something big” is looming and expected to come out of the meeting.
These speculations all point towards the PH council “fixing” a date for Dr Mahathir to step down. To the speculators, attempting to corner Dr Mahathir and insisting that he agrees to a date is a big thing.
It is probably akin to “belling the cat”.
However, if any of them chooses to reflect on all that had transpired since the fateful May 9, 2018, polls, debates and discussions on the transition were there from the word go.
First, it was on the day after when there were attempts to stop Dr Mahathir from taking oath as the PM, which instead was being “offered” to Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, then president of PKR until Anwar was later released from prison and took over.
The reason why Dr Wan Azizah was “offered” the Prime Ministership was on grounds that her party had secured the highest number of seats among the four-party coalition partners.
The narrative that was churned then was that Dr Wan Azizah had turned down the offer because of the PH pre-electoral agreement that if the coalition won, Dr Mahathir would be the PM, seek a pardon for Anwar and then pass the post to Anwar in due time.
There was no specific time frame for the transition, but Dr Mahathir had said that he needed two to three years to get the country back on its feet.
But not many people pointed out that if Dr Wan Azizah had accepted the offer and reneged on the agreement, the coalition would lose its majority if Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), though with only 13 seats, were to leave the coalition.
More than that, the public sentiment then for Dr Mahathir was overwhelming and if anyone or any party had attempted to stop Dr Mahathir from taking oath on that night, the wrath of the public would have been uncontainable.
Despite that, leaders from PKR did not shy from taking pot-shots at Dr Mahathir and PPBM, denigrating them as a minor partner and that Dr Mahathir did not win the polls for PH. At irregular intervals, some DAP lawmakers would join the fray in undermining Dr Mahathir, who is their PH chairman.
And such, unsavoury remarks persisted since then until today.
What makes it worse is that party leaders, either from PKR or DAP, did not make any visible efforts to put a stop or restraint on their underlings. There was probably one attempt from the DAP, but it was so half-hearted that they would have been better off not even thinking about it.
Now, the whole issue has culminated to a point that some PKR lawmakers and self-proclaimed reformists are even threatening to take to the street if Dr Mahathir did not specify the date of the handover. And these threats came despite Dr Mahathir having publicly stated a few times that he would step down after the November APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit).
As all these “pressures” are being piled up on Dr Mahathir, lawmakers from across the floor are signing statutory declarations in support of him and wanting him to stay on for the full term and it is widely speculated that the number supersedes the required 112-simple majority.
These pronouncements can be a double speak — one, they believe in Dr Mahathir’s leadership and want him to stay, and the other is that they are truly opposed to Anwar that they’ll settle for Dr Mahathir until the next general election.
If those who are pressuring Dr Mahathir to a corner think they are doing Anwar a service, they may have very well shown their cards once too early or once too often.
In fact, they may have also pushed Anwar himself to a corner. If he is unable to secure a date today, then he would have disappointed them greatly, especially after all the bravado and sabre rattling.
Anwar has already started a conciliatory stance, urging all and sundry to accept Dr Mahathir’s deadline of post-APEC. That opinion seems to be echoed by several others and looks likely to be the popular sentiment among the top PH leadership.
That being the case, all the hype and speculation of something big looming after the PH presidential meeting tonight is much ado about nothing. Actually, the fuss is all about a vaulting ambition, nothing more and nothing less.
Someone may feel to be every inch a king, but an inch less is as good as regality lost.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.