Anwar faces challenge to his post as Pakatan leader

Joceline Tan, The Star

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has gained some breathing space after the most dramatic Parliament sitting in history.

However, the man who had set out to unseat him is now fighting to hold on to his position as Opposition leader.

On Thursday (Dec 17) morning, as Parliament was about to wrap up its meeting, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was blindsided by what seemed like a plot to replace him with Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal as the leader of the Opposition.

It began with a joint press statement by Amanah president Mohamad Sabu and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng that left PKR leaders fuming.

The pair called for a “political reset” in Pakatan Harapan, which many read as a not-so-subtle nudge for Anwar to make way.

“We were not born yesterday. I don’t think anyone misses what they had in mind. You could say that the call for a reset got us really upset,” said PKR’s William Leong, who is Selayang MP.

The “reset statement” was actually quite politely crafted but there was no mistaking the message between the lines.

The gist of it was that since Anwar had failed to get the numbers needed to topple Muhyiddin, Pakatan should stop courting MPs from the other side of the political divide and instead expand its numbers with “friends from within”.

The statement even described Anwar’s bid to get the numbers as a “mirage”.

Most jarring of all, the statement was made by only two of the three Pakatan party leaders.

It was evident that DAP and Amanah want to bring Warisan and Pejuang into the fold and start anew, presumably with a new prime minister candidate.

Then there was the timing of the statement.

Earlier that morning, Shafie was on a radio programme where he said the Opposition needed a “new recipe” that involves fresh leadership and floated the possibility of a prime minister from Sabah or Sarawak.

It was the second major announcement in a week from the Warisan president, who had also declared that his party intended to go national.

Anwar could smell a plot brewing around him.

He could see that Shafie’s radio interview and the “reset statement” were aimed at setting the tone and agenda for the Pakatan presidential council meeting scheduled that same afternoon.

“Can you blame my boss for feeling upset? Why issue the statement right before the presidential council meeting? These matters should be raised at the meeting,” said Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar, who is PKR vice-president.

Shamsul, who was having breakfast with Anwar and Kulim Bandar Baru MP Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution at the MPs lounge that morning, said the opinion around the table was that the series of events were not coincidental.

Saifuddin, who is also PKR secretary-general, considered it a betrayal.

It was Shamsul who then suggested to Anwar to postpone the presidential council meeting until things cooled down.

But that did not avert what was a rather terse verbal exchange between Anwar and DAP Senator Liew Chin Tong minutes later.

As Anwar was leaving the lounge, he stopped at the table where Liew was seated to express his bitter disappointment at what had happened.

Anwar, rightly or wrongly, associated Liew with the “reset statement” because the former deputy defence minister had recently published a collection of articles that he had titled “The Great Reset”.

“Anwar stuck with Pakatan through thick and thin. He carried the torch in trying to return the mandate to the people. It is only fair to give him time to complete this final lap,” said Shamsul.

PKR leaders also resent that Anwar is being blamed for everything.

“Who were the ones who asked Anwar to get the numbers if he wanted their support? Who were the ones who wanted to get back into the government at all cost – to the extent of bringing back Dr Mahathir for the third time?” asked PKR’s Leong.

He said if Anwar was able to get the numbers, these people would be claiming credit for it and clamouring for posts.

“Now they want to remove him because he failed,” said Leong.

According to a Perak PKR leader, Anwar has been unfairly criticised for trying to recruit Umno MPs.

“We would have preferred GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) but GPS cannot accept DAP. Whose fault is that? DAP should realise it is also a burden to us.

“They are flirting with Shafie but there is no need to humiliate Anwar this way. We can remain friends even if we have to part ways,” said the Perak leader.

PKR leaders say it is difficult to read Anwar’s mind but many of them are ready for a break up.

Pakatan began as Pakatan Rakyat but became Pakatan Harapan after a bitter split with PAS.

Is Pakatan about to reinvent itself again, with Shafie as the new prime minister candidate?

Political commentator Eddin Khoo said the last few years of non-stop politicking has culminated in a chaotic mess on both sides of the divide.

“All these politicians should be careful. The political landscape has changed for good, things will never go back to what it was.

“People are at their wit’s end, fed-up with what they see. I have a feeling the most significant vote in the next general election will be protest votes,” said Khoo.

But the burning question for now is whether Anwar can survive the new challenge to his leadership in Pakatan.