Mahathir returns to Malaysia's political frontline

Mahathir returns to Malaysia's political frontline

Malaysians are deeply divided by the opposition's choice to pick Dr Mahathir, 92, as its candidate for prime minister.

These were for Anwar to be given a pardon and made prime minister within a year of Pakatan winning the election, for PKR to be allocated the highest number of seats to contest the election and for Dr Mahathir to agree to institutional reforms.

Sunday's decision means that Mahathir could return as prime minister 15 years after he stepped down from the position.

Mahathir is a fierce critic of current Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in corruption scandal.

"And I see that there will be possibilities of instability if we keep changing our prime ministers within a short time ... there will be policy changes, and the approaches (of both men holding the post) would be different", said Lajim who was commenting on Pakatan Harapan's announcement to appoint Mahathir as the country's interim prime minister until Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could be installed as the eighth prime minister.

Pakatan Harapan secretary-general Saifuddin Abdullah said Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the alliance's candidate deputy prime minister.

"He (Mahathir) may start giving conditions, and the person taking over will just nod at anything but later, will not fulfil what has been agreed upon", Lajim said.

The Mahathir-led opposition, however, looks unlikely to unseat the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, according to a survey conducted by independent polling firm Merdeka Center in December.

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Kuala Selangor MP Datuk Seri Irmohizam Ibrahim said investors would be anxious and doubtful of former prime minister Dr Mahathir's leadership, pointing out that the citizens of Zimbabwe, on the other hand, had revolted against the three-decade authoritarian rule of former president Robert Mugabe.

"We are highly sceptical of the opposition's prospects if they continue to be split as things are now", Mr Ibrahim said.

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.

Malaysia's political landscape has been shaped for almost two decades by a bitter feud between Anwar and Mahathir.

He must call elections by August and political tensions are rising. By June this year, Anwar would have been in jail for 40 months - or two-thirds of his five-year sentence.

The displeasure with Mr Najib has brought bitter rivals together - the more liberal Mr Anwar and the authoritarian Dr Mahathir.

Najib is battling allegations that billions of dollars were looted from crisis-hit sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. In 2013, the coalition lost the national popular vote for the first time to the opposition.

But Anwar was convicted and jailed again in 2013 for allegedly sodomizing a former aide, a charge he and his supporters describe as an attempt to end his career. Najib, the brainchild and head of 1MDB's advisory board, has denied any wrongdoing.

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