Report: Anwar shrugs off links to ‘Big Tent’ talks but won’t stop allies

(MMO) – Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has dismissed suggestions that he is the architect of the “Big Tent” strategy that seeks to unite all anti-Umno forces, Malaysiakini reported yesterday.

PKR president told the news portal in an interview that his party had never promoted the idea. Still, he insisted that Pakatan Harapan (PH) does not close its door if there are parties that want to talk.

“If you look at PKR statements, this ‘big tent’ issue has never arisen. To me, it is not relevant. Even DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke recently stressed strengthening Harapan from within,” he was quoted as saying.

“I also want to say that we should not be too arrogant too, to the extent that others cannot even discuss with us. But whatever it is, the basis of our strength will still be Harapan.”

Anwar is also chairman of PH, a coalition comprising the biggest major Opposition parties. There are several other parties outside the bloc but are smaller, such as the nascent Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) and Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang).

Anwar’s assertion came amid revived talks about the so-called “Big Tent” strategy by several PH leaders. The strongest supporter of the idea appeared to be Amanah, a PAS splinter group.

Its president Mohamad Sabu was reported as suggesting that his party is open to the formation of an electoral pact with the smaller parties in a bid to galvanise the Opposition.

Anwar, MP for Port Dickson, was reported as saying that his party is not keen about exploring the approach, but doesn’t see the effort as a problem for PH.

“As the president of PKR, I am not holding any negotiations, because our priority now is to strengthen Harapan,” he was quoted as saying.

“However, I also would not take the approach of rejecting any good effort to hold discussions with others, as long as they follow our agenda.”

PKR has firmly opposed the proposition that PH work with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad again. Dr Mahathir, who rode on the reform push to lead the coalition to its maiden electoral win at the historic 2018 general election, is now the head of Pejuang after he left Bersatu.

Talks were rife that Dr Mahathir had attempted to block Anwar’s succession when he was the prime minister of the PH administration, which fuelled yet more friction between the two.

The tension was said to be a key factor behind the PH government’s collapse.

In the interview with Malaysiakini and several other news outlets, Anwar cited the experience as the reason behind PKR’s lack of support for the ‘big tent’ approach. The PKR leader said any collaboration outside PH must only involve parties that are “ideologically” aligned.

“If (working together) means we have to compromise our principles, and bow to their leaders, it will not happen,” he was quoted as saying.

“But if it is only discussing to build strength, or so that the rivalry between Opposition parties does not get so intense, then it is possible. And I do not see this as a ‘big tent’.”