KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said his refusal to back Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Pakatan Plus grouping’s choice for prime minister was not due to any distrust of the latter, but a matter of pragmatism.
According to a transcript of his interview with Asia Times, Dr Mahathir insisted his former deputy could not muster enough support from among Opposition parties to mount a credible challenge against Perikatan Nasional.
“It’s not about distrust. It’s about getting the support of the people. While Anwar used to be very popular, now he has lost quite a bit of the support.
“I believe these people will not support an attempt to make a comeback by Pakatan Harapan if he is designated as prime minister,” Dr Mahathir said.
He conceded that Anwar possessed some support among Opposition parties but argued that those against his selection were adamant about this.
This was why he had to be the loose alliance’s choice to be PM, even if this was just for an interim period, he claimed.
Dr Mahathir did not explain why those not in favour of Anwar now would accept him later.
He then gave his oft-used response to why he still offered himself up as the prime minister despite his age and having held the position an unprecedented two times.
“A lot of people feel that, for a time at least, I should come back. I have no wish to come back. I mean, coming back three times is a bit too much!”
Pakatan Harapan parties have been divided over Dr Mahathir and Anwar as their choice to be the prime minister, with PKR insistent that it would only accept the latter while DAP and Amanah have declared for the former.
The dispute meant neither man could consolidate the Opposition in order to realistically challenge Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.