Malaysian rivals Mahathir and Anwar ally again in bid to end crisis
Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad won the backing of old rival Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday for his return as prime minister
Malaysia, 29 February (Reuters) : Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad won the backing of old rival Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday for his return as prime minister, restoring a difficult alliance that collapsed this week when Mahathir’s abrupt resignation plunged the country into political turmoil.
The move averted a showdown between the men whose relationship has shaped Malaysian politics for two decades, but which risked sidelining both and returning to power the corruption-tarnished former ruling party they had defeated.
Mahathir, who as interim prime minister is the world’s oldest government leader at 94, and Anwar, 72, swept to a surprise election victory in 2018, but friction between them continued and was at the root of the latest crisis.
Anwar said he was going to tell Malaysia’s monarch that Mahathir was now the prime ministerial candidate of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) 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 former interior minister Muhyiddin Yassin, 72, who had the backing of the old ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Islamist party PAS.
It was UMNO’s ruling coalition that Mahathir and Anwar united to drive from power in 2018 under then prime minister Najib Razak, who now faces graft charges.