November 8, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has alleged that political foes, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim, have a secret pact to form a federal government after the Nov 19 general election.
The allegation has been dismissed as a red herring by Zahid and Datuk Seri Anwar, with both saying it was an attempt by Tun Dr Mahathir to gain votes for his fledging alliance Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA).
Dr Mahathir, who is defending his Langkawi parliamentary seat, claimed on Sunday that Zahid planned to back Mr Anwar as prime minister. In return, Mr Anwar would ensure Zahid is free from his dozens of graft charges.
Mr Anwar has eyed the premiership for more than two decades since he was sacked as deputy premier by then Prime Minister Mahathir in 1998.
“Zahid is afraid he will go to jail. So, if Anwar (becomes prime minister) he can guarantee that the Umno president will be freed of the charges… I’m certain that they will work together, and we know that Anwar and Zahid have met (on this),” Dr Mahathir told reporters on Monday.
Both Dr Mahathir’s GTA coalition – of which his Parti Pejuang Tanah Air is a member – and the Perikatan Nasional coalition, spearheaded by another former premier, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, have been using the alleged secret pact as a major campaigning tool in the current election.
Last week, Mr Muhyiddin raised the possibility of Zahid cooperating with Mr Anwar if Umno-led Barisan Nasional lacked the votes needed to form the government on its own.
This is not the first time that speculation has risen over an Anwar-Zahid partnership.
In late 2020, Mr Anwar claimed to have secured a “strong, convincing, formidable majority” to form a new government and that the then Muhyiddin administration had “collapsed”, ostensibly on the basis of a declaration by Zahid and former premier Najib Razak that Umno would back the opposition leader’s bid for the premiership.
But nothing materialised, even after Mr Anwar gained a royal audience on Oct 13.
In response, Mr Anwar on Sunday demanded Dr Mahathir show proof to back his claims.
In a dig at his former boss, Mr Anwar said Dr Mahathir was just obsessed with standing in the way of him becoming prime minister and leading the country.
“The day I get to be prime minister, Mahathir will have a fever,” he said at a rally in Penang. “But I will still wish him well.”
Zahid, meanwhile, was dismissive and labelled Dr Mahathir the “Father of Diversion”.
“Dr Mahathir feels he is always right, that all his speculations are true. He does this because he fears his party will suffer a major defeat.
“He can no longer rely on his brand for his new coalition, and that the rejection of Dr Mahathir is happening not just in Langkawi, but nationwide. As such, diversion of issues is a top priority for them (GTA),” he said.