Malaysian ruling party leader Anwar Ibrahim, who cut a deal to become the country’s next prime minister ahead of last year’s election, said he should take power around May next year.
Will Anwar Ibrahim actually succeed Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s next Prime Minister? That question has dominated Malaysian politics for months, and the opposition’s high-flying Khairy Jamaluddin – an ex-minister who was once viewed as prime minister material – says he has had to deal with the poser even though he is now far from the corridors of power.
The speculation has risen amid whispers from within the government that Anwar, prime minister-in-waiting according to an agreement within the coalition that won last year’s election, fears 93-year-old Mahathir has no plans to hand power to him.
While Anwar and Mahathir have stressed their pre-election pact is intact, commentators have been unable to resist comparing the current scenario to 1998.
At the time Mahathir, then in his first stint in power, abruptly sacked his deputy prime minister, Anwar, from government.
Anwar, 71, was jailed over corruption and sodomy charges, despite scepticism from international observers.
When Dr Mahathir led PH to unseat the Barisan Nasional in the election last May, Mr Anwar was serving a five-year jail term for sodomy, a charge he has said was politically motivated.
Days after the shock victory, Mr Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was granted a royal pardon from the Malaysian king and returned to the political arena.
There have been suggestions from some quarters for Dr Mahathir to serve a full term until the next general election due in 2023.
Among those who backed this proposal was PKR deputy president and Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, who was recently implicated in a gay sex scandal that has deepened a split within the party.
Since taking over the government, Pakatan Harapan has struggled to maintain the support of the country’s Malay Muslim population, who make up the country’s majority.
The backlash from Malay groups forced the administration to backtrack from its promises to ratify international treaties on anti-discrimination and crimes against humanity.
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