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“A return of the Mahathir-Anwar leadership?” Really?

In Malaysia on 05/01/2019 at 1:23 pm

Not if Anwar has learnt his lesson. The background

A return of the Mahathir-Anwar leadership?

Anwar Ibrahim enters 2019 in much the same position he was in some 20 years ago: in line to replace Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister of Malaysia.

The once close relationship between the two men turned sour in the late 1990s, during Mr Mahathir’s first stint as leader. The two clashed over the Asian financial crisis, and Mr Anwar was eventually jailed on sodomy charges that he says were fabricated for political reasons.

As part of an election-winning deal in 2018, however, Mr Mahathir has promised to hand over power to his one-time protégé “in a year or two.”

The focus now is on the two men’s relationship. One former minister recently proposed that they give the “1997 recipe” another try, with Mr Anwar becoming Mr Mahathir’s deputy ahead of the leadership handover.

Mr Anwar, however, seems to be playing his cards more carefully this time.

“I never push for [a succession deadline],” Mr Anwar told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview in October.

But he also issued a warning to any would-be challengers.

“I have forgiven those who jailed, insulted and accused me,” Mr Anwar told party members in November. “I am nice and friendly with everyone, but don’t try to walk over me or I will take you on.”

CK Tan, Nikkei staff writer

His warning

“I am nice and friendly with everyone, but don’t try to walk over me or I will take you on.”

is directed at Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s economic affairs minister. Amin, his deputy in PKR also leads the anti-Anwar faction within the PKR.

It’s widely believed among people in the know in KL, that Tun is trying to get Azmin to depose Anwar so that Tun can say, “How to hand over power to Anwar, when his own party doesn’t want him?”. This is risky because if civil war breaks out in PKR, the coalition is at risk.

Whatever, Azmin and his gang

may slow, or add uncertainty to, Anwar’s accession to the premiership in the hope this buys Azmin time to position himself as Mahathir’s successor instead,” wrote Peter Mumford, Asia director at Eurasia Group, in a recent note. The rivalry could escalate if Mr Mahathir reshuffles Malaysia’s cabinet early this year and appoints Mr Azmin to a more powerful ministerial position. Wong Chen, a politician in Mr Anwar’s party, said many members of parliament were anxious about the political manoeuvring, but added: “The majority of us still believes the transition will happen where Anwar will assume the premiership at the end of 2019 or early 2020.”

FT

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