In latest twist, Mahathir says he is back in the race to be PM, has the numbers to win
KUALA LUMPUR — In yet another twist in Malaysia’s week-long political drama, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday (Feb 29) he has the numbers to be the next prime minister, after the Pakatan Harapan coalition made an about-turn and threw support behind him once again.
KUALA LUMPUR — In yet another twist in Malaysia’s week-long political drama, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Saturday (Feb 29) he has the numbers to be the next prime minister, after the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition made an about-turn and threw support behind him once again.
“This morning I had a meeting with leaders of Pakatan Harapan. I am now confident that I have the numbers needed to garner majority support in the Dewan Rakyat,” Dr Mahathir said in a statement, referring to the Malaysian Parliament.
“I am therefore prepared to stand as prospective candidate for Prime Minister. This decision will be conveyed to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.”
In a separate statement, PH’s presidential council on Saturday said it was stating its full support for Dr Mahathir as the candidate to be prime minister.
This marked a double reversal of PH’s position within a week. Following Dr Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister on Monday, PH said it was backing him to return as premier.
But on Wednesday, PH had said it was instead backing Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim to be its prime minister candidate. This was because PH had rejected Dr Mahathir’s plan for a unity government that abandons the coalition’s May 2018 general election (GE14) manifesto.
“Pakatan Harapan is a coalition which received a clear mandate in GE14. PH firmly opposes any attempts at a ‘backdoor government’ especially those that involve kleptocrats and traitors to the cause, that will destroy all efforts for a reformation that have been implemented until now,” it said in its statement on Saturday.
“Therefore, in order to defend the struggle, Pakatan Harapan states its full support towards Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister candidate,” the PH presidential council added, also affirming that it would continue to defend its manifesto in the 14th general election.
On Saturday morning, Mr Anwar himself posted on his official Twitter account the PH presidential council’s statement which declared PH’s full support for Dr Mahathir as prime minister.
PH's u-turn and Dr Mahathir’s decision comes hours after his former party Bersatu said it was backing its president Muhyiddin Yassin for the prime ministerial post.
Mr Muhyiddin on Friday appeared to have an edge in the race to get majority support from Members of Parliament to back him as a candidate to be prime minister, with support from some 97 MPs in the 222-member House.
These include 36 from Bersatu, 39 from United Malays National Organisation (Umno), 18 from Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, two from Malaysian Chinese Association and one each from Malaysian Indian Congress and PBRS.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, had 93 MPs, all of whom are from PH, which also includes the Democratic Action Party and Amanah.
Sarawak and Sabah parties hold over 20 seats and their support would be critical in deciding who becomes prime minister.
Dr Mahathir on Saturday rejected the Bersatu announcement that implied or inferred he had supported Mr Muhyiddin as candidate for prime minister, pointing out that he did not do so.
“I did not sign any Statutory Declaration in support of any individual.
“In fact I left the meeting early to allow for a free debate among members of parliament from Bersatu to choose whomever they feel is suited for the post of prime minister,” the Langkawi MP explained.
Dr Mahathir also reaffirmed his stand to not work with corrupt politicians from the previous administration under Barisan Nasional (BN), adding that he had informed Bersatu MPs at their meeting on Friday.
“As I had repeatedly stated, I am against any form of cooperation with individuals who are known to be corrupt and was part of the kleptocratic administration which the Pakatan Harapan Government had worked hard to rid of.
“As a matter of principle I had conveyed this to the Bersatu Members of Parliament in the meeting yesterday,” he said.
“And as I had stated before, while I am not prepared to work with those who are corrupt from Umno, I can accept them individually for so long as they are proven clean. Perhaps Tan Sri Muhyiddin is more relaxed towards this approach,” he added.
Dr Mahathir, who had led the PH coalition in the May 2018 elections to defeat the Umno-led administration, had also on Wednesday publicly stated his refusal to work with Umno.
Several of Umno’s leaders — including Umno’s current president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former president Najib Razak — are facing trials over alleged corruption.
Najib’s administration has also been criticised by his political opponents as being a “kleptocratic” government due to the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad financial scandal.
Separately, Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman denied that he was part of the 36 MPs that the Bersatu statement had implied as supporting Mr Muhyiddin’s nomination as prime minister.
“It’s a lie! Tun didn’t sign, I didn’t and others,” he told reporters on Saturday via Whatsapp, referring to Dr Mahathir by his title. AGENCIES
Related topicsMahathir Mohamad Pakatan Harapan Anwar Ibrahim Malaysia politics UMNO Muhyiddin Yassin Malaysia Prime Minister
Read more of the latest in