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Malaysian turmoil takes new twist, as Mahathir announces PM candidacy

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad will stand as prospective candidate for Malaysian prime minister on behalf of the former ruling coalition, the interim prime minister said on Saturday (Feb 29), 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,” Dr Mahathir said in a statement.

That meant that Dr 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.

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

Dr Mahathir also denied reports that he supports Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin Yassin’s candidacy.

A new alliance had formed behind former interior minister Muhyiddin, 72, who had the backing of the old ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

It was that party, tarnished by corruption, that Dr 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 Dr 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 Dr Mahathir nor Pakatan Harapan made any mention of that promise in Saturday’s statements. – REUTERS