By Mohsin Abdullah
Supporters of Pakatan Harapan are naturally breathing a sigh of relief now that the coalition has finally made its decision with regards to its prime minister-designate, should Pakatan Harapan come back to federal power.
Supporters, especially together with leaders and members of the coalition component parties, have lived through anxious moments for months as Pakatan Harapan dilly dally and quarrel as to who should its PM candidature be: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, or even Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
And at various juncture it had looked like Pakatan Harapan was on the verge of a break-up. The image and credibility of DAP and Amanah took a lot of beating when they appeared to be siding with Mahathir, leaving Anwar-led PKR alone.
And Anwar's meeting with prime minister cum Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his party secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin raised many an eyebrow and set tongues wagging.
Now that the Pakatan Harapan presidential council has decided to stick to its "original" stand in backing Anwar as PM-designate, all irritating problems have been settled. Have they?
As Ilham Center head of research Dr Yusri Ibrahim sees it, the presidential council's decision is a signal that Pakatan Harapan is ready to re-strengthen ties and beef up cooperation among its components. Needless to say relations between DAP, Amanah and PKR had been strained, to say the least.
Pakatan Harapan, says Yusri, must stay united to mount a fierce challenge to Perikatan Nasional, and in a democracy a strong opposition will bring many benefits to the rakyat when the government and opposition both compete to give the best to the people and nation.
But according to Yusri, with Anwar as Pakatan Harapan PM-designate, the coalition's "ability" in getting the numbers (in the Parliament) for an immediate takeover of government "would somehow seem to be limited, as opposed to choosing Mahathir as PM candidate.
"However, by naming Anwar, Pakatan Harapan will see a clear direction in preparing to face the next general election which many expect will be held in very near future," says Yusri.
In short, Pakatan Harapan is on firm ground with the PM-designate issue settled and Anwar at the helm.
The Pakatan presidential council's decision was announced via a media statement signed by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, and of course Anwar himself.
A political observer drew my attention that the statement "did not make any reference, even in passing, about Mahathir".
To the observer, the future of Pakatan Harapan Plus (the moniker for Pakatan Harapan and its allies: Mahathir's side of Bersatu and Shafie's Warisan party) "will now hinge on Mahathir's own response to DAP and Amanah giving full support to Anwar".
As mentioned earlier, there were instances the two parties appeared or had given the impression they were in favor of Mahathir being PM candidate.
"If Mahathir insists that Anwar cannot bring in the numbers to topple Perikatan Nasional, he must also disclose whether he and Shafie will remain in Pakatan Harapan Plus or seek new alliances elsewhere," says the political observer.
At the time of writing, Mahathir has not responded to the Pakatan Harapan presidential council decision.
It's interesting to note that the council's statement also states clearly that it believes all efforts to restore the people's mandate must continue and this requires support of all parties.
Hence the presidential council has given Anwar full mandate to discuss with all parties, including Shafie, to complete the process of returning the people's mandate.
Towards that end, Anwar will have to weave his magic, so to speak, and use his diplomatic skills.
Another political observer tells me one bright spot for the opposition is when the Parliament reconvenes on Monday July 13, both Pakatan Harapan and its "Plus" allies will be unanimous in blocking Muhyiddin's attempt to remove Dewan Rakyat Speaker and deputy speaker.
At the time of writing, talks have it that the prime minister wants to replace Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and his deputy Nga Kor Ming purportedly with EC chairman Datuk Azhar Harun and Umno MP Datuk Azalina Othman Said respectively.
Pakatan Harapan and allies are on the same page that the Speaker and deputy must be defended and any attempt to remove the duo be prevented.
Says the political observer, "In the event PH Plus being successful (in preventing the prime minister's attempt), it will mean Muhyiddin does not have the majority support in the Parliament and this may well pave the way for snap elections, something powerful forces in Umno have been pushing for.
A snap election, of course, will put the limelight again on Anwar–Mahathir and the prime minister quagmire.
It could very well turn out that way. But, If you have a crystal ball, please gaze into it!
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)