SARAWAK’S opposition leaders have brushed off Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg’s derisive labelling of Pakatan Harapan’s candidate for prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, as a “recycled leader”.

“There’s nothing wrong with a recycled leader. Even so, we don’t see him in that light  ,” PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian said.

“We looked at his capabilities and contributions.

“He’s still very capable, has leadership abilities and is clear in his vision,” Baru said during a press conference to announce PH Sarawak’s stamp of approval on the pick of Dr Mahathir and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as candidate for deputy prime minister.

“That’s the confidence we have in him. Most importantly, he is able to unite opposition parties and is clearly able to reach Malay voters in the peninsular, like Felda settlers, who have long been an Umno vote bank.”

PH Sarawak chief Chong Chieng Jen said to topple Umno, “there’s no better person than Dr Mahathir”.

“He has the respect and confidence of rural Malays (in the peninsular), which other leaders in PH lack,” Chong, who is gunning for a fourth term as Bandar Kuching MP, said.

The Sarawak chief minister yesterday said Malaysia could not realise the future aspirations of young Malaysians with a “recycled leader”.

PH Sarawak also refused to use the word “interim” to describe Dr Mahathir’s position if he does become prime minister. This was because they endorsed the decision to seek a royal pardon for jailed PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim “to set the stage for him to take over (from) Dr Mahathir as the eighth prime minister of Malaysia”.

“Let’s just say that PH has a succession plan in place, a very clear and specific plan,” Baru, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said.

Chong said Dr Mahathir could hold the position for “one to two years, or maybe longer, depending on (legal) circumstances”.

Chong also gave assurances that the 92 year-old former prime minister and Bersatu chairman would not be in a position to dominate all the other parties, “unlike Umno in BN”.

“Furthermore, with or without a royal pardon, Anwar will be out of prison in June. He will be the counteracting force against any dominance by Bersatu.”

Describing the 14th general election as a “do or die battle”, Chong said it would also be a clash of titans, pitting Dr Mahathir and Anwar on one side and Prime Minister Najib Razak and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang on the other.

Chong named Hadi even though PAS is not a member of BN because “Najib is relying on PAS to stay in power” rather than on other parties in BN.

He said Umno was clearly leaning towards PAS for support as “in the last two to three years, Umno’s agenda has been dictated by PAS”.

Chong said PH’s consensus on its pick for prime minister was not the only remarkable achievement for the opposition pact, citing its agreement on seat allocations long before the dissolution of Parliament.

Bersatu will contest 52 seats, PKR (51), DAP (35) and Amanah (27).

“The stage is set,” Chong said.