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KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is not suitable to as the prime minister candidate as he is allegedly not “popular” among the Malays, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed.
The former prime minister reportedly said the PKR president needs someone like himself in order to acquire support from the Malays and win the election.
“He is not very popular with the Malays,” Mahathir told US-based CNBC’s Street Signs Asia during an online interview yesterday.
“It has been shown that the support of the Malays is very important for any party to win the election, and because he’s not very popular — being the leader of a multi-racial party — he needs somebody who’s leader of the Malays to help him win the election.”
Dr Mahathir pointed out that this was why initially he wanted to become the prime minister for a third time for a period of six months should Pakatan Harapan Plus (PH Plus) took over the government from Perikatan Nasional (PN).
“The proposal is that I should lead and become the prime minister, but he disagrees. He wants to be the prime minister’s candidate.
“I have already given a promise that I would step down after six months. But he didn’t want me to be the prime minister at all. That makes it difficult to work together,” he said.
The Langkawi MP also pointed out that Anwar could not get the support of the Malays and win the election on three previous occasions.
“It was after I joined them, they got the support from the Malays and won the election. It was a big achievement as the government didn’t change for 60 years,” he said.
The parties of Pakatan Harapan only came into power in 2018 after Dr Mahathir and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia joined the fray, but lost power after Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister in early March.
Last week in an interview with Asia Times, Dr Mahathir said his refusal to back Anwar was not due to any distrust of the latter, but a matter of pragmatism, claiming his former deputy could not muster enough support from among Opposition parties to mount a credible challenge against Perikatan Nasional.
In March, Dr Mahathir had claimed that Anwar did not have the support of the Malay community since his time in Umno, as they viewed him as a “liberal”, adding that the Malays feared liberalism would lead to an erosion of their rights and privileges.
The Opposition has yet to settle on its choice of prime minister candidate should it return to power, with PKR initially rejecting the proposal for Dr Mahathir to become the prime minister and Anwar, his deputy for a period of six months.
This led Dr Mahathir to support a proposal naming Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal as the coalition’s prime minister candidate with Anwar, and his son Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as deputies.