“In politics, there is a large difference between losing and being defeated.”

– Chris Matthews

PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli was reported to have said that if the old maverick does commit to a timeline for a transition of power then a retirement date will be imposed on him. The question is who is going to do that? The presidential council which has done bupkus (nothing) since Pakatan Harapan won their mandate?

You cannot really blame the old maverick for not wanting to relinquish power. After all, there was no fixed transition date, hence Dr Mahathir Mohamad is well within his “rights” to drag this on. How there could be no fixed date or even a timeline is beyond me, but it is a constant reminder that some people are willing to believe anything if it means getting rid of a despised public figure, like Najib Abdul Razak.

Always remember, Mahathir is not solely to blame. The folks who were supposed to keep him in check are also to blame. The same people who were screaming that Mahathir was a despot or tyrant, and yes, kleptocrat, are now silent when he rides roughshod over election promises and progressive reforms.

As for a vote of no confidence, Rafizi said support for the coalition would “collapse” if there were an effort from within it to forcefully remove Mahathir in such a manner. However, Rafizi said this was unlikely.

Mahathir, of course, dared anyone in Harapan to sack him – “Well, it is up to the party. They (Harapan presidential council) can sack me if they want to,” was his sarcastic reply when told that Anwar said there would be no no-confidence vote or attempt to remove him after the Tanjung Piai fiasco – “Thank you.”

So let me get this straight, Rafizi (above) claims that if Mahathir does not commit to a transition timeline, a retirement date would be imposed upon him – but he admits that the coalition would collapse if Mahathir was forcibly removed from office.

In other words, removing Mahathir if he does not want to go would mean the collapse of Harapan. I have no idea why Rafizi would say that a date would be imposed on the prime minister when clearly he believes that Harapan would collapse if the old maverick were forcibly removed.

Maybe – since I publicly harassed Harapan to endorse Mahathir as prime minister – we were all wrong about needing the old maverick. Outlier political pundits are still debating if Mahathir was even needed to put the coup de grâce on the Najib regime. There was a significant portion of the Malay electorate who just had enough of the excesses of the Najib regime and would swing to Harapan, even without the old maverick.

Rafizi also said that if Anwar were prime minister, his success in the next election would be determined by his choice of economic advisers and his enactment of radical economic policies which would be met by resistance from within his party and coalition. Very interesting, but a subject for Anwar Ibrahim, it he becomes prime minister.

Rafizi says the rakyat have lost patience with this whole transition issue. Well, that part of the rakyat who voted for Harapan. A minority, I would like to remind everyone. For folks who support Umno/PAS, they are happy to see the infighting continue and throw their support as long as Mahathir is in line with their policy agendas.

As for the Harapan presidential council deciding on a retirement date for Mahathir, does anyone really believe that they will do anything? On the one hand, we have Tian Chua claiming that overt support of Anwar becoming the next prime minister pits Anwar against the old maverick is mendacious. What this overt support is, is a reaction against the moves by provocateurs who would derail the succession plan and those who encourage the perception that Anwar will not be the next in line.

So, while Raifizi may be correct in claiming that Anwar (above) “had the support of a vast majority of his own party as well as the DAP”, it only takes a few rabble-rousers working in concert with the opposition to reverse the fortunes of the old maverick.

This has always been my issue with those who do not want Anwar to become prime minister. If they have a better candidate, then put him or her up. Why work with the opposition or with the old guard to destabilise Harapan?

No Malay political operative in the coalition would even consider such a play because to do so would invite the wrath of the Malay political establishment. Any challenge to Mahathir in the past always came from the Malay establishment and the most notable, because of its political terrain shifting, was PKR leader Anwar.

And when the prime minister has the backing of the opposition, Harapan partisans should understand how screwed they are when it comes to ministerial accountability and transparency. Not to mention policymaking.

We have to be very clear on this issue. This is not about Mahathir resigning or being forced to resign. Keep in mind there was never any transition date, to begin with. The cold truth is that Mahathir is under no obligation to make the transition easier or relinquish power when there are elements from within PKR and the opposition enabling his tenure and frustrating the transition process.

All this is a distraction. What has always been the case is that the so-called “reformists” within Harapan are not standing up to the executive.

They are as dismissive of campaign promises as the old maverick is. Their supine nature is conducive to the kind of excesses that brought down the Najib regime.

Better Harapan collapses because there were people standing up to the old maverick than the coalition collapsing because of internal feuds or charlatans who promised a new Malaysia but were intent on creating a Neo Malaysia.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan.