Much Speculation over First PH Presidential Council Meet in 3 Months

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The political rumour mill surrounding Pakatan Harapan has shifted into higher gear, in anticipation of several major developments next week.

The Corvid-19 outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,300 lives and ignited global alarm, has failed to extinguish the political rumour mills in Malaysia.

The upcoming Pakatan Harapan presidential council, scheduled to take place next week, has fuelled speculation. The last time the coalition’s leaders met was in November and much has happened since then.

Azneal Ishak/Malaysiakini

The contentious issues which could lead to fireworks include a cabinet reshuffle, the succession plan between Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as well as the alleged formation of a new political coalition.

The news comes amid a report claiming that federal lawmakers have signed a statutory declaration (SD) in support of Mahathir and for the latter to serve until the next general election instead of passing the baton to Anwar.

Whistle-blower website Sarawak Report claimed that those who inked the SD were MPs from Umno, PAS, Bersatu and PKR – those aligned to Anwar’s estranged deputy Azmin Ali.

While Anwar claimed to be clueless of the SD, PKR’s Zuraida Kamaruddin, who is aligned to Azmin, denied the report.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, a source claimed that on paper, Mahathir has the support of more than 130 MPs, including those from Gabungan Parti Sarawak.

With this trump card, the source said, Mahathir could issue an ultimatum to the Harapan council in the event there is pressure for him to step down.

“The PM would put the numbers (the MPs supporting him) on the table and tell his allies ‘look, I have the support. You can either swim with me or sink’,” added the source.

However, another source claimed that Anwar has an edge, with 129 lawmakers supporting him compared to 93 for Mahathir.

This calculation is based on the premise that all of DAP and Amanah’s lawmakers, as well as almost half of Umno’s 39 MPs, would back Anwar.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang has repeatedly pledged his support for Mahathir but Umno is divided over this issue.

Last week, Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan advised caution against making a rash decision on accepting the offer of political cooperation.

Prior to this, Umno supreme council member Lokman Adam released an audio recording claiming that party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was keen on working with Mahathir.

In an attempt to persuade Umno leaders, he said, Zahid had claimed that this would prevent Umno from being de-registered or be left behind.

This issue arose as speculation raged over a possible realignment of political forces under the name Pakatan Nasional.

Meanwhile, another source claimed that Mahathir is not the chief architect of the alleged campaign to prevent Anwar from succeeding him.

“There are others, those close to Mahathir, who are pressuring the ‘old man’ not to let Anwar take over.

“Mahathir intends to keep his promise (to pass the reins to Anwar). But if the majority of MPs don’t want Anwar, what can Mahathir do?” the source told Malaysiakini.

The premier himself hinted at this during a recent interview, where he said the Dewan Rakyat would be the ultimate decider on who should lead the nation.

In a related development, the New Straits Times also published a speculative report on the presidential council meeting with the headline “Something big in PH (Harapan) next week?”

Quoting sources in Harapan, the daily outlined three possible scenarios, including Mahathir announcing that a large number of opposition lawmakers are joining the coalition and would pledge their support for him to continue serving as prime minister.

Another scenario, it added, would be the prime minister announcing a massive overhaul of the cabinet.

Social media is also replete with all sorts of theories regarding the future of Harapan. One message which is making the rounds on Whatsapp is the line-up of Pakatan Nasional.

According to this message, Mahathir would serve as the new coalition’s adviser whereas Umno MP Hishammuddin Hussein and Azmin would be the president and deputy president respectively. – Malaysiakini