Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was all smiles last night when he declared that the Pakatan Harapan presidential council had unanimously agreed to allow him to decide the prime ministerial transition plan, but the council’s meeting itself was tense.
Three sources from both sides of the divide who spoke to Malaysiakini confirmed that Harapan parties, particularly Amanah and DAP, had pushed Mahathir to set a date to hand over power to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
However, Bersatu leaders in the meeting warned Amanah and DAP leaders that if they continued to pressure Mahathir, then Bersatu will mull quitting Pakatan Harapan.
Following defections since the last general election, Pakatan Harapan and its ally Warisan have a total of 138 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.
Bersatu’s exit will take with it 26 seats, leaving the government with only 112 seats. The current government would almost certainly fall as a part of PKR MPs are also aligned to Mahathir.
Anwar’s factional rivals in PKR led by party deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali also threw their support behind Mahathir during the meeting.
“He (Azmin) proposed for Mahathir to serve a full term as prime minister,” said one of the source.
However, two separate sources who are close to leaders in the meeting said Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu, was unflinching in the face of the threat that Bersatu may quit the coalition.
“Mat Sabu said ‘if that is your decision we have no problem with it, we are used being in the opposition’,” said the sources.
As the leaders argued, Mahathir was calm and attentive throughout the meeting, according to the third source who was inside the meeting.
“He was cool, listening to all the arguments… and came out with a solution,” said the source.
In a bid to diffuse the argument, the sources said Anwar asked that Mahathir is allowed to decide the date for the transition after the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (Apec), which meetings will conclude in November.
Seeing that the man they are supporting was taking a step back, both Amanah and DAP then concurred.
During the subsequent press conference, Anwar, who was seated beside Mahathir, reiterated his diplomatic position.
“In the discussion, I myself suggested that Mahathir be given the space to govern.
“In the meantime, I have to be patient,” he had said.
After the meeting, a beaming Azmin declared: “(I am) smiling because the prime minister was firm on guaranteeing the nation’s economic and political stability.”
Meanwhile, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, when asked by journalists to comment after the meeting, declined to do so.
While Anwar has taken a diplomatic position publicly, it remains to be seen if he will rein in his supporters who have increasingly pressured Mahathir to step down by the second anniversary of his tenure.
Mahathir has previously said he needed two to three years as prime minister. Amid calls for a clearer timeline, Mahathir said he plans to hand over power after the Apec meetings but has not given an indication how long after the Apec summit.
In the last general election, Pakatan Harapan agreed to appoint Mahathir as its leader on condition that he eventually hand over power to Anwar who was at the time in prison.