The issue of transition of power from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is not over yet. In fact, it has become contentious, problematic and polemic. There have been rumblings of discontent among certain quarters within PKR and Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, with some even expressing their discontentment publicly, which is definitely not good for PH.
In fact, Anwar’s supporters and voters who supported PH in the 14th general election (GE14) are still talking about it despite former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz asking everyone to stop talking about the transition of power last Wednesday and to focus instead on socioeconomic development.
Was this not the promise by PH before the GE14? It was reported then that the succession would take place within two years, but it was later revealed that there was no formal agreement on when this would take place exactly.
Which is which? Who is telling the truth? Conflicting, emotive, provocative and indefinite statements are not going to help PH. Certainty is vital to ensure stability within PH and the country. Promises are made to be fulfilled, not broken albeit they were not carved instone. PKR has said that there was an agreement on Jan 7, 2018, for Anwar to take over as the next prime minister.
At one point, Anwar was even annoyed over media reports constantly focusing on the issue. He also urged all parties within PH to give Dr Mahathir space and time to restore the country’s economy. “I honestly do not sense any problem when it comes to transition.
And I have said repeatedly that we must give the space, the confidence to Dr Mahathir, to chart this new agenda, the reform agenda,” Anwar was quoted. The lack of clarity about the plan to hand over the reins has caused distrust among PH leaders about Dr Mahathir’s sincerity in stepping down.
This was aggravated by general public perception that the 94-year-old nonagenarian is more inclined towards PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali than Anwar. Although Dr Mahathir has repeatedly said that he would be handing over the premiership to Anwar, the latter’s supporters are not convinced. Why? PKR’s rift over the sex video, some believe, is reason enough to delay the transition of power. Political analysts and observers have speculated that the scandal may be related to the transition plan.
The nature of mistrust between the two leaders also runs deep when in 1998, Dr Mahathir fired Anwar as the deputy prime minister, shocking the nation. Yes, the question nobody can answer, except Dr Mahathir himself, is: Who does he want to be his successor? Anwar or Azmin? And the question for Anwar is: Will he be the next prime minister — the chosen one? A few quarters, including the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, has pressed Tun Mahathir to set a clear timeframe to step down. Tun Mahathir reiterated his promise on June 22 to pass the baton to Anwar, but set the deadline to “not beyond three years.” This was not the first time Dr Mahathir has said he would stick to his promise.
“As far as I’m concerned, I have made a promise that I will step down and that Anwar will succeed me,” he said in an interview with CNBC. Again, as though his statement before was not enough, Dr Mahathir reiterated his promise early this month. This was amidst Azmin, the Economic Affairs Minister, supporting the proposal by PAS for Dr Mahathir to continue serving as prime minister. Azmin was seen as not in favour of Anwar taking over.
To be fair to Anwar, he has also reiterated that there is no hurry for Dr Mahathir to quit and he is willing to wait. We don’t exactly know whether that is a true reflection of his stand if his future to be the next prime minister is at stake. But at least his statements sound more diplomatic, probably knowing the implications if he is perceived as a man in a hurry to helm the nation. Anwar indeed has learned his lesson from the 1998 episode.
A delay in the transition of power risks a public backlash. According to a recent survey, 75 percent of Malaysians said Dr Mahathir should not be prime minister for more than two years. Infighting is still raging in PH and it should not allow this issue to continue. PH has to move on and concentrate on its agenda and promises in the manifesto.
If handled wrongly or without tact, this issue has the potential to break up the coalition and cast our nation into political disarray.
Political stability and positive perception among foreign countries about Malaysia is paramount. Therefore, the best way out is to formalise the timeframe about the transition of power for the good of PH and the nation. Equally important, when Malaysians cast their ballots on last May 9, they not only voted for Dr Mahathir to be the prime minister for two years, but they also voted for Anwar to succeed Mahathir. Unless of course, that is no longer important and Dr Mahathir and his supporters learned from the wisdom of Niccolo Machiavelli.
The Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist and writer of the Renaissance period once said: “The promise given was a necessity of the past; the word broken is a necessity of the present.” If that really happens in the context of the transition of power, that is Machiavellian indeed in realpolitik at play.