KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — The PAS syura council today denied rejecting Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) choice for prime minister, claiming it is not up to the panel alone to decide.
Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, who also chairs the party’s highest decision-making body, was quoted by Bernama Online as saying the allegation was likely aimed at causing a rift among PR component parties.
“This is nonsense. I am the chairman of the syura council. Nothing was discussed to this effect,” he was quoted as telling reporters.
Council secretary Datuk Nik Muhamad Zawawi Nik Salleh denied the front-page report in Umno-linked Mingguan Malaysia today, saying that the issue has never come up in any of the council’s meeting.
“Whatever which was said, as if the issue came from the syura council, that is a fitnah (libel). The paper has to take back that statement,” Nik Zawawi told The Malaysian Insider today.
“No, no, that’s not true. We have never discussed that issue,” Nik Zawawi told The Malaysian Insider today, after asked about the Mingguan Malaysia report which quoted a source from within the party.
Nik Zawawi insisted that the syura council is only responsible for vetting the eligibility of the Islamist party’s candidate choice in the elections, but not for the prime minister post.
Today's report in Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of the daily Utusan Malaysia, will likely trigger more questions on the leader who will be chosen by PR if the coalition manages to form a government after the elections.
“Even if the syura council’s stand is proven true, it will come as no surprise because the sentiment within some of the main leaders and members of the party is that they certainly do not want Anwar, who is the opposition leader, to become the prime minister.
“It can be seen in the last muktamar (the PAS annual conference) when PAS members openly stated their support to PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang to become prime minister,” said a source in the Mingguan Malaysia report.
During debates at PAS's 58th annual Muktamar in Kota Baru late last year, delegates from the party made a surprise proposal for Abdul Hadi to take on the prime minister’s post instead of Anwar.
The suggestions and the resounding support from party delegates contradict the stand taken by the PR leadership, which has repeatedly endorsed its de facto leader Anwar for the post of prime minister.
The paper also reported rumours that someone from outside PR will even be brought in as candidate for the prime ministerial position. It noted that PAS’s “strength” in determining PR’s choice of prime minister will pose difficulties since PAS is not considered a dominant party in the coalition.
Rumours have been circulating in political blogs that PAS is courting influential Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to become the pact’s prime minister if it wins Election 2013.