COMMENT | Pakatan Harapan secretary-general Saifuddin Abdullah said yesterday that the coalition had only decided on Anwar Ibrahim as the successor to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but that the timing of the transition was never discussed.
But Saifuddin’s simplistic assertion is misleading – without giving the full historical context that would have highlighted the exact interim nature of Mahathir’s premiership.
We must remember that Mahathir’s marriage to Harapan was only sealed after months of strenuous haggling to overcome objections from dissenting members, given that the two protagonists were deadly enemies for decades.
Harapan had finally agreed to let Mahathir lead the coalition and take up the premiership (in the event of winning the election) only because its common leader Anwar was then in prison and hence legally disqualified for the premiership.
If Anwar had not been incarcerated then, the question of Mahathir leading and becoming prime minister would never have arisen.
So, it was clearly understood and agreed to by all parties then that Mahathir would be an interim prime minister pending the day when Anwar would be legally qualified to take up the premiership.
After this agreement of Mahathir’s interim premiership was reached, he later suggested himself that he might stay for two years, as he thought the legal process leading to Anwar’s eventual legal qualification for the premiership might take considerable time.
The component parties of Harapan were at the time non-committal to Mahathir’s two-year suggestion.
And lo, Anwar was given a full royal pardon almost immediately after Harapan’s electoral victory, stunning everyone – except perhaps his family, who had been working around the clock to secure his release.
Handing over the reins
Should Mahathir then step down for Anwar to take over then?
Anwar’s answer was that he is in no hurry to take over and that he would rather Mahathir continue his management of the transition from BN rule and hand over the reins at a “comfortable” juncture.
And that is all there is on the background surrounding Mahathir’s interim premiership. So what next?
I think enough water has flowed under the bridge over the past seven months for both principals to ponder and reflect honestly whether this is the right time for the handover – for the best interests of the nation.
For this reason, I also suggest the leadership of Harapan components give this issue serious thought.
If the consensus is that this is not the right time, then fix the timing of handover so as to stamp out increasingly detrimental speculation and to avert dangerous political manoeuvres that may prove to be the undoing of this budding regime.
I am sure that if all of us place the interests of our nation as our top priority, we would be able to make the best decision that would enable us to exploit to the fullest this godsent opportunity.
KIM QUEK is the author of the banned book The March to Putrajaya, and bestseller Where to, Malaysia?
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.