Malaysian turmoil takes new twist as Mahathir and Anwar ally again

Reuters Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Feb 29, 2020, 08.01 AM(IST)

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during an interview with Reuters in Putrajaya, Malaysia, December 10, 2019 Photograph:( Reuters )

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Mahathir has thus secured the likely support he needs to return as prime minister full-time, less than a week after he resigned and was appointed as interim leader.

Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad will stand for the premiership on behalf of the former ruling coalition, the interim prime minister said on Saturday, less than a week after he quit and plunged the country into turmoil.

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

That meant that Mahathir, who is the world's oldest government leader at 94, would reunite with on-off ally and long-term rival Anwar Ibrahim, 72, resuming a pact that swept the coalition to a surprise election victory in 2018.

"Pakatan Harapan states its full support towards Dr Mahathir as candidate for prime minister," said a statement from the coalition formed by the two men whose struggle has shaped Malaysian politics for two decades.

Mahathir has thus secured the likely support he needs to return as prime minister full-time, less than a week after he resigned and was appointed as interim leader.

The political futures of both Mahathir and Anwar 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 former interior minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 72, who had the backing of the old ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

It was that party, tarnished by corruption, that Mahathir and Anwar united to drive from power in 2018 under then prime minister Najib Razak, who now faces graft charges.

Tension had persisted between Mahathir and Anwar over the prime minister's promise to one day hand power to the younger man. No date for that was ever set, however.

Neither Mahathir nor Pakatan Harapan made any mention of that promise in Saturday's statements.