Nikkei Asean Review says Anwar Ibrahim finally has Malaysia’s leadership within reach, meaning the latter has a firmer grip on becoming the next Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The Japanese publication says Anwar who still expects to take power next May, believes the transition is on schedule even after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would stay on as Prime Minister for another year.
Anwar is positive because he believes he and Dr Mahathir finally have a shared cause.
“It is in his (Mahathir) interest that his tenure is peaceful. And it is my interest to ensure the transition is peaceful, so I’m given similar support,” he says.
But with the electoral clock ticking and tough reforms, which Dr Mahathir is struggling to implement, Anwar wants the handover sooner, than later.
“I need at least two, two-and-a-half years [until the next election]. So I think it’s fair to keep this date. And if I am able to do the right things in two-and-a-half years, yes, I’m confident I can get back,” Anwar is quoted as saying.
Dr Mahathir recently stated to the Financial Times he will not quit in May 2020 as was rumoured only recently, but will quit before the next General Elections.
The government is facing serious issues in implementing reforms with opposition from within the Pakatan Harapan. Some component parties in the ruling coalition have other views on reforms, which they believe should be shelved in order to promote a more Malay-centric policy.
Nikkei says the coalition, the Pakatan Harapan, the two men manage is fractious and divided, too, as is Anwar’s own political party, citing Francis Hutchinson, head of the Malaysia programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
It also says Anwar has to be very patient while waiting in the wings because any wrong move may bring the two men back to the days when they had the serious fallout that resulted in Anwar going to jail after the 1997-1998 turbulent economic times.
The publication notes that however resilient Dr Mahathir is, he cannot continue indefinitely.
But his unwillingness to confirm a date likely stems from an unwillingness to be viewed as a lame-duck leader.
On his relations with Dr Mahathir, Anwar says they are “cordial. Friendly. Very proper” but there is “a little bit of nitty-gritty about a specific date” for Mahathir to quit, but the general consensus is Anwar will take over from the PM.
Dr Mahathir is facing one of the biggest tests since he took power again. The by-elections in Johor on Nov 16 is proving to be an ardent task for the elderly statesman.
A loss in the Tanjong Piai by-election where the Pakatan Coalition is facing off with a resurgent and united Umno and Islamist PAS opposition could be a big blow for the PM.
Losing a seat in the state that Dr Mahathir wrestled from Umno will be damaging, though it will not diminish the latter’s power.
“The perception game will be significant from then on because that power would seem to be slipping away from Pakatan’s and Mahathir’s hands,” says an analyst.
On Dr Mahathir favouring another successor, there are few suitable candidates, says the publication.
A serious contender to the throne in Putrajaya broke the ranks with Anwar but failed to make the grade and has since then conceded defeat in public.
Azmin Ali, the powerful minister of economic affairs embroiled in a gay sex video scandal that is not going away admitted defeat against Anwar.
He publicly supported Dr Mahathir to remain as the Prime Minister of Malaysia until 2023, instead of supporting a transition plan agreed by the PH leadership.
This, an analyst told TISG, is a sign Azmin has finally come to the conclusion he has lost the fight against Anwar.
But the analyst warns Azmin may still rummage within the Justice Party, looking for leaks and creaks to get back at his leader to whom he has been loyal for the past quarter of a century.