Pakatan Harapan has unanimously agreed to name Anwar Ibrahim as its de facto leader, according to sources.
Three separate sources confirmed with Malaysiakini that the proposal was agreed to during Friday’s Harapan presidential council meeting.
One source said the proposal was made by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
Bersatu leaders who had been present at the meeting, however, declined to comment when contacted.
This was a shift from a reported proposal earlier this month for Anwar to be named as a potential co-advisor to Bersatu chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Politically, the move is seen as setting Anwar above and apart from the rest, like his current position in PKR as de facto leader.
It may also be aimed at making a newer leadership line-up proposal by Bersatu more palatable.
On the morning of Friday’s meeting, Bersatu was reported to have proposed that Mahathir and party president Muhyiddin Yassin be made Harapan chairperson and president respectively.
“If the proposed title (for Anwar) is true, it is a good tactic to make PKR leaders who remain obsessed with Anwar agree to (Bersatu’s proposal),” political pundit Wan Saiful Wan Jan told Malaysiakini.
Besides giving the top two posts to Mahathir and Muhyiddin, it was also reported that Bersatu proposed making Anwar’s wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail Harapan’s deputy chairperson, while PKR deputy president Azmin Ali would be the coalition’s deputy president.
However, sources claimed that during the course of Friday’s meeting, Muhyiddin had accepted a counter-proposal by other parties for Wan Azizah to become coalition president instead, with Mahathir still as Harapan chairperson.
No Anwar note
But despite the reported compromises, Harapan was unable to announce a finalised leadership line-up on Friday.
This led to speculations as to why there had been no decision, including a reported note from Anwar that supposedly torpedoed the revision.
However, a PKR source denied this. “No such thing, no note from prison,” the source said.
Malaysiakini understands that Anwar no longer conveys written messages from prison after his letter on the Citizens’ Declaration last year was leaked, prompting unwanted attention from prison authorities.
A separate source said the so-called note was a message from Anwar, which had been conveyed to the PKR political bureau a week before the Harapan presidential council.
The message purportedly expressed Anwar’s desire to expedite the Harapan registration process and focus on the general election, thus asking PKR not to fuss over the line-up and to quickly finalise it as it is.
However, in light of the proposed changes by Bersatu, the decision was put off so as to re-consult Anwar on the matter.
Besides Anwar’s message, there is also believed to be reservations about giving Mahathir a position of power in the coalition.
Mahathir’s decision to join the opposition had already split opinions, as seen in the dissent by some civil society groups and the lukewarm response towards the nonagenarian from reformasi-era veterans within PKR and DAP.
While Mahathir and other opposition leaders have worked to heal this divide, it is unclear how they will react if he is propelled to the position of Harapan chairperson.
These advocates believe that Mahathir can help trigger a “Malay tsunami” against BN.
Mahathir, who has been adamant about sitting out the general election, has also softened his stance, stating that he was prepared to be prime minister for “a short while” if there was a consensus within Harapan.
Which path the Harapan presidential council will now take depends upon Anwar, as the ball is now back in his court.