Malaysia's former premier Dr Mahathir could be world's oldest PM

Malaysia's former premier Dr Mahathir could be world's oldest PM

Malaysia's opposition alliance named former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday as its prime ministerial candidate for a general election this year, although the authoritarian who ran the country for two decades and is now 92 years old faces an uphill task.

Anwar was heir apparent to Mahathir until the premier sacked him in 1998 over political differences, and was then jailed for six years on sodomy and corruption charges.

Merdeka Centre's director Ibrahim Suffian said the Mahathir-led group was at a disadvantage due to a split in the opposition and the redrawing of electoral boundaries that critics say favour the ruling government.

But reactions from observers and government officials have been mixed to the opposition's move to pick the former prime minister, who ruled for 22 years from 1981 to 2003 and developed a reputation as an autocratic ruler, as its main hope for defeating the incumbent.

Anwar was once a protege of Mahathir, and the rising star of Malaysian politics, but they had a falling out in the late 1990s.

The secretary-general Saifuddin Abdullah said once the opposition wins, it would immediately start the process to obtain a royal pardon for Mr. Anwar from Sultan Muhammad V, so that he can be eligible to take over as PM from Mahathir. He denied the charges, dismissing them as politically motivated.

The announcement was made during the annual convention of the opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan or Pact of Hope.

"After two decades of taking the nation on a political roller-coaster ride, these two master politicians are now back to square one albeit one to be the Prime Minister and the other Prime Minister in waiting", Ti said in a statement.

Najib's Barisan Nasional coalition lost the popular vote in that election but managed to stay in power after winning a majority of the seats in parliament.

According to unnamed sources quoted by news site The Malaysian Insight (TMI), Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), had set three conditions for Dr Mahathir to be named the coalition candidate for prime minister.

Mr Anwar was convicted and jailed again in 2013 for sodomy, a charge he says is an attempt to end his career.

Capital Economics, a research company, said Najib's ruling party is "almost certain" to win the election on the tailwind of a strong economy, the weak state of the opposition and widespread gerrymandering. A royal pardon, however, would let him contest. Mahathir has emerged as a potent danger after joining up with a fractured opposition coalition that includes Anwar, his one-time foe and a charismatic political veteran imprisoned following a controversial 2015 sodomy conviction.

Mr Najib, 64, is now unassailable in his party Umno and in the 13-party BN coalition, after locally containing the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

He said this was because of uncertainty in how long the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman would hold the post as there had been talks that his appointment would only be temporary.

The US Justice Department alleges $4.5 billion was stolen from the investment vehicle, 1MDB, in a campaign of fraud and money-laundering. Najib, the brainchild and head of 1MDB's advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing.

Related Articles