PH Keeps Options Open on New Opposition Leader

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Pakatan Harapan, the largest opposition bloc, has yet to decide on who will be the opposition leader.

This time around, there appears to be two possible candidates – Harapan’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim (Port Dickson) and former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Langkawi).

Conventionally, the position will be held by the largest opposition party, which is, in this case, DAP.

However, according to PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution, DAP has indicated during the Harapan presidential council meeting that they were not interested.

“We discussed the matter last week after Anwar informed us that he had received a letter from Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. I assume it was from Takiyuddin Hassan, inquiring about the position of opposition leader.

“The matter was discussed based on two accepted conventions,” Saifuddin told Malaysiakini.

Saifuddin said the one important convention was seeking a consensus among opposition MPs.

He revealed that he had met Mahathir and Warisan leader Shafie Apdal recently, on behalf of the Harapan secretariat, for preliminary discussions on the matter.

Saifuddin said there were still a few weeks left before the May 18 Parliament sitting for a decision to be made.

“I have no answer. We have not reached there yet,” he said when quizzed on whether Mahathir’s name was considered to fill the post previously held by Bera MP Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

When contacted, DAP national chairperson Tan Kok Wai confirmed that his party would not be seeking the position.

 Bersatu MPs on both sides

The upcoming one-day Dewan Rakyat sitting will see for the first time a political party with members sitting on opposite sides of the aisle.

Bersatu MPs are split along the lines of who they are loyal to – party chairperson Mahathir or party president Muhyiddin Yassin (Pagoh).

The split occurred following the “Sheraton Move” in late February when Muhyiddin led the bulk of Bersatu MPs out of Harapan, causing the 22-month-old coalition government to collapse.

Muhyiddin then formed a new government with MPs from Umno, PAS, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and other smaller parties and was installed as the country’s eighth prime minister.

Mahathir has a handful of MPs on his side, most notably his son, Mukhriz (Jerlun) and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muar).

Meanwhile, Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said his party will abide by Harapan’s consensus on electing the opposition leader.

Asked specifically if the party would accept Anwar or Mahathir, Salahuddin said the party was open to discussions.

In a recent interview on Astro Awani’s “Consider This” programme, Anwar provided a vague answer as to whether he was slated to be the opposition leader.

“For Harapan now, yes, although we say we need to continue to engage with other opposition leaders.”

It is unclear whether Harapan would continue to work with Mahathir after having backed him as prime minister following its unprecedented victory at the 2018 general election. It appears that it is keeping its options open.

The May 18 Parliament sitting will only consist of the king’s address with no oral question sessions, written questions, motions and special chambers sittings. – Malaysiakini