KUALA LUMPUR – Pakatan Harapan’s alleged plan to make Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad “interim” prime minister (PM) in the event the bloc takes over federal power after 14th general elections (GE14) could spark a “crisis of legitimacy”.
Ooi Heng, executive director of Political Studies for Change (KPRU), said appointing a PM candidate from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), a fledgling party that likely commands little support compared to other senior coalition partners contravenes the Federal Constitution.
Constitutionally, the post must be filled by an elected representative from a party that commands majority seats in the House of Representatives, Ooi noted.
“If the GE14 results show that PPBM wins the same number of seats with, or wins more seats than PKR then there would be no problem for PPBM to nominate their leader as the Prime Minister.
“The component parties that support this candidate will not face any legitimacy crisis in the Federal Constitutional context,” the think-tank said in a statement.
“However, if the GE14 results show that PKR wins a convincing number of Parliamentary seats while the number of PPBM seats is not only of no match but also far behind PKR, therefore producing a Prime Ministerial candidate from PPBM before the GE14 results is made known will lead to a possibility of a crisis of legitimacy,” it added.
Any prospect of a Pakatan Harapan victory in the 14th general election will likely see PKR win more parliamentary seats than PPBM, Ooi predicted.
All PH component parties bar PKR have tentatively agreed to appoint former prime minister and PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir as the bloc’s “interim” prime minister candidate, a post otherwise reserved for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who is now serving prison time for a second sodomy conviction.
Top PKR leaders have so far kept mum about the decision and said it would deliberate on the matter and reach a decision soon, but talks are rife among political observers that many of the party’s rank and files are uncomfortable about the idea; many opined that Dr Mahathir’s candidacy could overshadow Anwar’s popularity.
Pointing to the disquiet, Ooi said PH leaders should understand that squabbling over the post could dishearten its supporters and compromise its campaign.
“In our opinion, the Pakatan Harapan leaders understand that the important matter before appointing a Prime Minister is to win the election.
“Therefore the voters’ sentiment needs to be taken care of and be prioritised. There is no guarantee that those who have voted Pakatan Rakyat in GE13 will maintain their support for Pakatan Harapan in GE14,” Ooi said.
Survey findings show the bloc’s popularity has dipped since GE13, and that sentiment among voters that felt PH was taking their support “for granted” growing, especially those among non-Malay voters and urban voters, KPRU noted. The think tank believes the impasse over the PM could worsen the damage.
“We predict that if such nomination of an interim Prime Minister proceeds before the GE14 results is made known, without any conditions and without considering the different views of various quarters, then the significant negative sentiments of some voters who support a change of the ruling regime..will continue to spread,” Ooi said.