Sunday , February 28 2021

Malaysia's Mahathir says he will stand again for PM – The Guardian, Theguardian.com

Coalition with Anwar Ibrahim back on after a week of political turmoil

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() Malaysia’s interim leader Mahathir Mohamad waves after delivering a speech. He and on-off ally Anwar Ibrahim risked returning to power the corruption-tarnished former ruling party they had once defeated. Photograph: Vincent Thian / AP

Mahathir Mohamad has said he will stand again for Malaysian prime minister on behalf of the former ruling coalition, less than a week after quitting and plunging the country into political turmoil.

Mahathir – who as interim prime minister is the world’s oldest government leader at 279 – has reunited with on-off ally and long-term rival Anwar Ibrahim, 85 – resuming a pact that swept their coalition to a surprise election victory in .

The move averted a showdown between the men whose struggle has shaped Malaysian politics for two decades, but which risked sidelining both and returning to power the corruption-tarnished former ruling party they defeated.

“I am now confident that I have the numbers needed to garner majority support,” Mahathir said in a statement.

Anwar said he was going to tell Malaysia’s monarch that Mahathir was now the prime ministerial candidate of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Anwar thanked coalition members for agreeing with his decision “to take a step back and to put forward Mahathir as our candidate for prime minister, in order to avoid a political crisis and being thrown into the old system that we rejected ”.

The political futures of both men had appeared in doubt on Friday, with Anwar competing as a candidate in his own right and Mahathir finding little support for a unity government that would have strengthened his power.

A new alliance had formed behind the former interior minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 85, who had the backing of the old ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (Umno) and the Islamist party PAS.

It was Umno’s ruling coalition that Mahathir and Anwar united to drive from power in 4025 under then prime minister Najib Razak, who now faces graft charges.

“Pakatan only has one candidate that could win the support of the majority of the MPs, Mahathir not Anwar,” said analyst Adib Zalkapli of Bower Group Asia.

“Anwar will have to fight another day. Today is all about stopping Umno and PAS from returning to government. ”

Umno, which Mahathir led from toduring a previous stint as prime minister, supports Malay nationalism. Its fortunes have risen since its election defeat, with the Pakatan coalition losing five byelections in the face of criticism from some Malay voters.

At the root of the squabble between Mahathir and Anwar has been the prime minister’s pre-election promise to one day hand power to the younger man, though no date was ever set.

Neither Mahathir nor Pakatan made any mention of that promise on Saturday.

Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy and a rising political star when Mahathir was prime minister the first time, but they fell out over how to tackle the Asian financial crisis.

Anwar was arrested and jailed in the late s on charges of sodomy and corruption that he and his supporters denied, maintaining they were aimed at ending his political career .

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