There appears to be confusion on whether Pakatan Harapan will announce its candidate for the prime minister and deputy prime minister’s posts during the coalition’s national convention over the weekend.
This is due to Harapan chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s conflicting responses to questions on the issue during a press conference last night after the Harapan presidential council meeting.
Quizzed repeatedly, Mahathir appeared to suggest that the announcement would be made at the convention and then later, said the announcement would be made after the event.
This led to conflicting media reports on the issue.
Below is the transcript of the questions posed and Mahathir’s answers during the press conference:
Reporter: You mentioned yesterday that we will know who will be the PM candidate for the next GE, have you come to that decision yet?
Mahathir: You will hear about it after the convention.
Reporter: Any obstacles? Because it was reported before that Harapan will probably announce the candidates which are Tun (Mahathir) and (PKR president Dr Wan) Azizah (Wan Ismail) during the convention. What is stopping that from happening?
Mahathir: Today is not the time for us to announce. We made a decision to embellish the importance of the convention, we will make all the announcements regarding our future plans at the end of the convention. So please come.
Reporter: Was there a decision today (at the presidential council meeting) on the PM candidate?
Mahathir: At the convention. We have said that again and again that we will announce all these things at the convention.
Reporter: So there was no discussion on the PM candidate today?
Mahathir: I will inform at the convention if we discussed or did not discuss or if we just smiled at each other.
Reporter: Anwar (Ibrahim) allegedly said that he is not going to support you?
Mahathir: You can use that as one of the rumours that you heard, but the truth will be known at the end of the convention.
Reporter: What are the pros and cons of announcing the PM candidate before or after the election?
Mahathir: We cannot announce it after the election, then it will be too late. It must be before the election.
Reporter: So is it (the announcement) somewhere after the convention?
Mahathir: Must be between the convention and the election lah.
Following this, Malaysiakini checked with sources who have knowledge of what transpired at the meeting and was informed that the announcement would most likely be made at the convention.
The press statement issued after the meeting also stated that “important announcements” would be made at the convention.
Previously, Malaysiakini reported that Harapan is slated to announce Mahathir and Wan Azizah for the top two posts at the convention.
However, sources told Malaysiakini that PKR wanted Mahathir to be named as an “interim prime minister” but the other three component parties disagreed with this.
The concern is that the term “interim” would not inspire confidence and give the impression that Harapan would not be able to form a stable government if it wins federal power.
Mahathir, when commenting on this issue, indicated that his age rendered such a debate pointless as he would not hold onto the post until he turns 100.
Wan Azizah and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali were not present at yesterday’s press conference. The party was represented by vice-president Xavier Jayakumar and Saifuddin Abdullah, who is also Chief Secretary of the Pakatan Harapan secretariat.
Others present included DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin and Amanah Mohamad Sabu.
Prior to the presidential council meeting, Anwar, who is serving a five-year prison sentence, reminded Harapan parties of the importance of consensus and that their strength lies in upholding the people’s voice.
Meanwhile, Utusan Malaysia claimed that the Pakatan Harapan presidential council had failed to reach an agreement on the “interim prime minister” issue.
ACCORDING TO THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT:
Azmin delivers letter from Anwar delaying naming of Pakatan PM candidate: But can Anwar write from jail?
PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim delayed the decision by Pakatan Harapan on its prime minister candidate – which was supposed to have been settled at the coalition’s meeting last night.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight the jailed opposition leader wanted PH to get feedback from civil society groups and activists on the candidate before making the announcement.
A majority of officials in the meeting were adamant that the decision and announcement on the PM candidate be made soon, said sources.
Another criterion before naming the PM candidate was that the opposition coalition settle all issues related to seat negotiations.
The presidential council, which comprises top officials from DAP, PKR, Amanah and Bersatu, told the media last night that its candidate for PM will be announced this weekend in Shah Alam.
All these conditions were expressed by Anwar through a letter delivered by PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali to the council as it started its deliberations yesterday.
“In the letter, Anwar said even though PH was made up of four parties, its strength came from the people’s voice.
“According to Anwar, PH has to continue its tradition of consulting civil society groups and activists before naming the prime minister,” the source told The Malaysian Insight on the condition of anonymity.
When the council started its meeting at 5.09pm, PKR sent out a statement from Anwar that was similar to the letter delivered by Azmin.
Azmin then left the meeting early.
According to the source, PH chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad initially wanted to excuse himself from the meeting as the discussion focused on him as one of the PM candidates.
“But the majority wanted Dr Mahathir to remain so he can listen to the discussion.
“What was obvious in the meeting was that Bersatu, Amanah and DAP had made up their minds that Dr Mahathir should be prime minister and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, his deputy.
“They wanted these names announced as soon as possible but PKR still wants to delay this,” said the source.
After the three-hour meeting, Dr Mahathir said the candidate will only be announced during the PH convention on Sunday.
Senior PKR leaders were absent from the press conference except its vice-president, Dr Xavier Jeyakumar.
Dr Mahathir and other PH leaders have stressed that PH must announce a candidate for prime minister before the 14th general election.
At a retreat last year, coalition members proposed Dr Mahathir and Dr Wan Azizah as prime minister and deputy prime minister if PH wins GE14.
The proposal, however, was not announced as PKR still wanted to discuss the matter at the party level although Bersatu, DAP and Amanah had no objections to the candidates.
Another source at the meeting yesterday told The Malaysian Insight that discussions on seat allocation must be completed before the PM candidate is announced.
“After the seat discussion, then we can announce the PM candidate. PKR still wants the biggest seat allocation, slightly more than two-thirds of all seats.
“The committee comprising all four parties will negotiate on the seats until it’s settled,” said the source.
The source is optimistic that the issue will be resolved before Sunday, as there are not many over-lapping claims among the four parties.
“The overlapping claims only affect 10 seats.”
The Malaysian Insight reported last week that PKR has set three conditionsbefore it would agree to Dr Mahathir as the PM candidate.
One of these is that PKR gets to contest 60 out of 165 parliamentary seats in the peninsula.
The other conditions are that Anwar be freed and appointed as prime minister within a period of six to 12 months if PH wins GE14.
The third condition is that Dr Mahathir has to agree to reform the country’s institutions.