Anwar affirms transition of power from Dr Mahathir to him will take place once things stabilise
KUALA LUMPUR: A courtroom handshake between sworn enemies in September 2016 may have sealed the fate of ousted premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The rapprochement between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR de-facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim led to an alliance between their parties and a mammoth election win last week, sweeping away Barisan Nasional (BN) which held power for six decades.
Now, does the new government face a big test of its durability, with Anwar a free man?
Dr Mahathir, reinstalled as Prime Minister after a prior stint which lasted 22 years, said before the election he would hand over the top post to Anwar once he was pardoned for a sodomy conviction.
But, not yet. Tun Daim Zainuddin, who heads the Team of Eminent Persons, said it would be foolish to make Anwar prime minister as soon as he returns to Parliament.
Singapore’s The Straits Times reported Daim as saying, on Tuesday, it was not time for an immediate change of premiership and the transition will be mid-term.
On the matter, Dr Mahathir told the Wall Street Journal that he plans to remain in power for one or two years after his historic election win last week to settle the mess left behind by Najib.
Dr Mahathir, as the leader of the new Pakatan Harapan government, flanked by leaders of its component parties which make up government, has kept to his first promise to release Anwar.
To be a devil’s advocate, Bloomberg reported the ability of the government to execute quickly on campaign promises to scrap an unpopular goods and services tax (GST), review big-ticket infrastructure projects and cut spending is at stake.
While economic growth is solid and markets recovered on Monday from an initial slump on the election outcome, any cracks in the ruling coalition - and the potential for a power struggle - would raise doubts about the ability of the administration to deliver, it said.
"The lack of a fixed timetable to pass on the baton to Anwar is a key source of political risk," said Hugo Brennan, a Jakarta-based senior Asia analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
"There is likely to be a deal of early goodwill between the pair, given the historic nature of the election outcome. The question is to what extent this can be maintained over the longer term."
PKR youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmadsaid in an interview on Tuesday the ruling coalition did not expect Anwar, 71, to take over as prime minister for several months.
“Naming the time period now when Tun has just been appointed would be a bit disrespectful to Tun,” Nik Nazmi said.
“So as far as Anwar has said personally to Tun as well, is that Tun will be given the time to run this government and from that later on, once things stabilise, then we will talk about the transition from Tun to Anwar,” he said.
Dr Mahathir's decision to show up when Anwar appeared in court in 2016 marked a change in the mind-set of the Rakyat, who now became more open to listen to the former premier.
But decades of bitterness, stemming from Dr Mahathir's decision to sack Anwar as his deputy in 1998 amid a dispute on how best to respond to the Asian financial crisis and later, his (Anwar’s) jailing for committing sodomy and abusing power, charges Anwar denied, now hangs in the balance.
Outwardly, it has been said that Anwar and his family had forgiven Dr Mahathir for these acts and he (Dr Mahathir) has apologised for his mistakes to the nation prior to GE14.
Based on public response, via social media and the press, Malaysians entrust Dr Mahathir to carry out reforms to the governments and its administration.
Another minor point to make here is that Anwar has received a Royal Pardon which nullifies the five-year ban on re-entering politics.
On Anwar, Dr Mahathir, in his book entitled ‘A Doctor in the House’, said “The belief that I dismissed him because I was afraid he would oust me is without basis. I dismissed him for two reasons only: he was unsuitable to continue serving in the government and he was unsuitable to succeed me as prime minister,” adding that he made many mistakes, but removing Anwar was not one of them." – at the time.
This is now seen as water under the bridge.
Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that Anwar once accused his former mentor of ‘orchestrating’ a ‘Gestapo-style’ smear campaign to destroy his political career.
“To use the sodomy and sexual perversion in order to appeal to the conscience and sentiments of the rural masses, particularly the conservative Muslims, is clearly pathetic,” he said in a 2012 interview.
Now, it can be clearly seen that Dr Mahathir is laying the ground work to administer the country based on the Rule of Law and form a just cabinet to keep to the promises of PH.
This cannot be done in a day.
What is important is that the confidence in the political and economical climate of Malaysia is returned as investors will be watching out for any rifts which can break this objective.
Anwar, in a recent interview, said the country was on the verge of a new ‘golden era,’ with the toppling of a corruption-riddled regime offering hope to people ‘clamouring for freedom’ everywhere.
But, cautioned that ‘one election does not a democracy make.’
“I always believed in the wisdom of the people and that if we fought hard enough we would eventually prevail," he told Australia's Fairfax Media in an interview on Tuesday.
“At a time when democracy is in retreat around the world, I hope that the people of Malaysia have given some hope to people around the world clamouring for their own freedom.”
Anwar said that after working with Mahathir for many years he understands ‘that he cares deeply about Malaysia and the people of Malaysia.’
“A new partnership was essential to overcome the deeply entrenched, corrupt system that was presiding over Malaysia," he said, referring to the Najib government.
"Our litmus test has always been supporting the reform agenda. So long as there is sincere commitment to these principles, we have always welcomed new supporters.
AFP reported that even while in jail, Anwar said he had detected growing outrage among Malaysians against Najib, who has been accused of involvement in plundering billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Anwar said the hardest thing about being in jail was its impact on his family.
“My children were quite young during the earlier period of incarceration and that was a difficult period for them and (his wife, Wan) Azizah,” he said.
"It is pure agony to see your own children struggling because of decisions you made. This time (in jail) it is my children's children who I missed deeply.
"But as a family, we were in concert that we cannot expect the people of Malaysia to take a risk for their freedom if we ourselves were not prepared to take those same risks.
"As the days and weeks wore on I never lost hope. In fact, even from within the prison cell I sensed that the outrage against a corrupt regime was increasing by the day."
Again, to Malaysians, a fair and just government was called for and the premise of such is present now. Malaysians have to be vigilante that the promises or on a greater plain the country moves forward and many believe the course has been set in the right direction.
The new dawn of the Golden Era is at hand.