PETALING JAYA – Dr Mahathir Mohamad has disclosed that he has in mind several candidates from the opposition to assume the post of prime minister should Pakatan Harapan (PH) take control of Putrajaya in the upcoming 14th general election (GE14).

The chairman of PH and PPBM was however reluctant to reveal the names of these individuals and which component parties they were from, saying that it would stir controversy.

“We have a number of candidates but we don’t want to push them forward too much now because there may be a lot of controversies, et cetera,” he said in an interview with CNBC aired today.

“But we have quite a lot of talent in Malaysia, quite capable of becoming prime minister in Malaysia.”

The revelation that there is more than one person being considered from the opposition is at odds with PKR’s expressed desire to have its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to be made the premier. Anwar is also de facto head of PH.

Delegates at the PKR national congress on May 21 had held up placards supporting Anwar for prime minister. Mahathir, who was seated with other PH leaders did not hold up the card that read “Anwar the 7th PM”, but was instead seen recording the scene on his mobile phone.

Instead, on June 6, Mahathir reportedly told top businessmen and opinion leaders in Tokyo that there was a possibility he might be prime minister again if the opposition won, but it would be for “a short while”.

“If there is no candidate … I might try, only on condition that everybody agrees,” he said.

Following disagreements aired over the media over the matter, Anwar, who is serving a five-year jail sentence over a controversial sodomy conviction, announced on June 17 that he was not vying for the top post.

Speaking to CNBC, Mahathir, 92, said announcing the list of candidates would not be sensible at this stage, and the opposition should keep its focus on toppling the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) under current prime minister Najib Razak first.

“(Naming them) will cause a lot of people to go into debate and bring up all kinds of false accusations against them, and we will be preoccupied trying to defend a candidate who may never become the prime minister,” he was quoted as saying.

“I’m not thinking about ruling; I’m thinking about defeating Datuk Seri Najib in the next elections and it would seem that lots of people are responding to what I’m doing.

 “We are confident we will win, but of course we have to deal with a man who’s going to stop at nothing in order to stay in power,” he added, referring to Najib, who is BN chairman and Umno president.

On May 26, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had claimed that Mahathir had not disagreed on Anwar being named as PH’s choice for prime minister.

“He said there is no need to announce the name. It does not mean he is in disagreement,” Wan Azizah, who is Anwar’s wife, had said.

On June 13, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang insisted that Anwar was PH’s prime minister-designate, but would only become Malaysia’s eighth prime minister and not the seventh as he was in jail and would be barred for five years from holding public office upon his release unless he is pardoned.

“Who that seventh prime minister is will be decided by consensus when Pakatan Harapan wins GE14,” Lim said, without mentioning any names.

On July 18, Mahathir had eventually said he was willing to fully support Anwar for the post “if that’s what the people want.”

He said PH was waiting for the right time before announcing the choice of a prime minister, saying it was a strategy using the “element of surprise” at the next polls.

“We will announce the name at a proper time. It can be now, or just before the elections. Or immediately after winning the elections. This is an option,” he said.