Race for PM

Analysts believed that Ismail Sabri and Anwar had better odds to become the next prime minister than Muhyiddin or Dr Mahathir.

(NST) – The main contenders in the 15th General Election (GE15) look set to go head-on to wrest Putrajaya and form the government, with the frontrunners for the prime minister’s post already lined up as their choice candidates.

Caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also Umno vice-president, remained BN’s choice even though the party had yet to make an official announcement.

Analysts believed such strategy had been adopted by the party as a shrewd move to keep its opponents off balance.

By not officially naming its candidate, BN hoped to deflect the individual from coming into the crosshairs of its rivals and being singled out for attack.

The coalition, however, was set to confine its prime ministerial choice among the Umno Top 5, which consisted of its president, deputy president and three vice- presidents.

Meanwhile, a party source said all Pakatan Harapan (PH) component parties, including the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), were backing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as its choice for the next prime minister.

The opposition leader was supposed to take over the premiership from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad in 2020. However, that slipped from Anwar when Bersatu withdrew its support and toppled the 22-month-old PH government.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who emerged as the eighth prime minister following the “Sheraton Move”, was eventually forced to step down on Aug 16 last year after losing Umno’s support.

But, PN now wanted their chairman to take up the top job once again.

Gerakan president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau Hoe Chai on Tuesday said that all PN component parties — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Pas and Gerakan — were backing Muhyiddin to return as the 10th prime minister if it won.

On the other hand, Gerakan Tanah Air chairman Dr Mahathir said he would not be going for the premiership again although he wanted to defend his Langkawi seat.

However, analysts believed that Ismail Sabri and Anwar had better odds to become the next prime minister than Muhyiddin or Dr Mahathir.

National Professors Council senior fellow Dr Jeniri Amir said Muhyiddin did leave behind a successful track record as prime minister, but he was relying on “political frogs” for his party’s survival.

“Ismail Sabri, on the other hand, managed to convince the opposition parties to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to keep his government in power. Crucial legislation, such as the anti-party hopping bill, was passed during his stint.

“Similarly, Anwar is a seasoned politician with a sizeable supporter base and, to some extent, the ‘Sheraton Move’ could win him some sympathy votes.

“People have lost trust in Dr Mahathir and his decision to re-contest in Langkawi will further see a plummet in his popularity,” he said.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said Anwar might get an “easy pass” this round since he never served as the prime minister, unlike his two rivals.

“So, the people have nothing to criticise him for. He can only be judged if he gets to helm Putrajaya,” he said.

Amid the speculation, all political parties were ramping up their preparations to face GE15, with several high-level political meetings set to dominate this week.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) Supreme Council will be meeting at 8pm tonight while the Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council will convene at 3pm tomorrow at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, was still waiting for a formal notice from the Dewan Rakyat Speaker on the dissolution of Parliament.

Its spokesperson told NST that all state assemblies (except Sabah, Sarawak, Melaka and Johor) should also submit a written notice on whether they wish to be dissolved.

So far, six states had declared that they would not dissolve their respective assemblies.

They included Pas-led states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, as well as states helmed by Pakatan Harapan — Selangor, Penang and Negri Sembilan.