Mahathir says willing to work again with Anwar for Malaysia’s general election
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said he is prepared to meet opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim to explore the possibility of a political pact to fight against “those who are trying to destroy the country”.
“I am prepared to meet Anwar because I believe we have the same (goals). If I have to make the first gesture, I will do it,” Tun Dr Mahathir, 97, said in a video clip posted on his Facebook page on Thursday.
“Some might say I am shameless but it does not affect me. To me, what is important is that we (work together to) stop those who are trying to destroy the country,” he said. “Najib’s downfall has shown that we can work together.”
Dr Mahathir, in the run up to the 2018 general election, shocked the country by meeting long-time political foes including Datuk Seri Anwar, forming Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), and then placing the party under the banner of the main opposition bloc Pakatan Harapan (PH) led by Mr Anwar.
It was a shocking move because Dr Mahathir, as prime minister in 1998, had sacked his deputy Anwar, sparking mass street protests and the rise of the Reformasi (Reform) movement.
The opposition won federal power in the 2018 polls, for the first time since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.
The PH victory was aided by opposition unity and deep anger towards then-premier Najib Razak and the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad involving billions of dollars.
But the PH alliance lost power in February 2020, less than 22 months into power, when then-premier Dr Mahathir abruptly resigned, saying he lost parliamentary majority when a group of his Bersatu lawmakers defected. He later left the party.
But many in PH blamed him for causing instability in the bloc due to his refusal to hand over the prime ministership to Anwar after two years, as had been agreed before the general election.
In his new video, Dr Mahathir recalled that he met Mr Anwar who was attending a court case in September 2016 and that led to the unity pact. He said they must meet again due to political circumstances in the country.
In his response on Friday, Mr Anwar said: “There is no issue, we can meet, we can discuss. But I’ve always emphasised what is important is why are we fighting BN/PN.”
Mr Anwar, 75, was on Wednesday formally named by PH as its prime ministerial candidate should it win power in the Nov 19 polls.
Malaysia’s opposition is now split into three main blocs - PH, Perikatan Nasional (PN) led by ex-premier Muhyiddin Yassin and Gerakan Tanah Air alliance led by Dr Mahathir. PN’s two main partners are Bersatu and Parti Islam SeMalaysia.
Mr Anwar had previously implied that there could be a way to cooperate with Dr Mahathir and PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin to avoid multi-cornered fights that would benefit Umno-led Barisan Nasional.