Khairy Jamaluddin, the youth and sports minister in Najib’s government, visited Najib at his house on election night and said this week the prime minister had been “calm” and “poised”, but that the people around him were “stunned, shocked and sombre”. Khairy (photo) was not available for comment today.
A spokesman for Khairy declined to comment on Anwar’s description of events on election night. Najib’s coalition secured only 79 of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats while Anwar’s party PKR won 50 seats. An alliance between the two could have secured Najib’s return to power.
Last year, Najib visited Anwar at a hospital where he was recovering from a shoulder surgery. The meeting sparked rumours that the two leaders may strike up an agreement to join forces against Mahathir, although this was quickly dismissed by Anwar’s team.
‘Mahathir the right man’ Mahathir, who was sworn in as prime minister last Thursday, secured a royal pardon for Anwar, and has promised to step aside for his friend-turned-foe-turned-ally to become prime minister.
The relationship between these two giants of Malaysian politics is a saga that has spanned three decades. Anwar said it had been accepted that he would be the next prime minister after Mahathir steps down, but he wanted to ensure a smooth transition.
“Mahathir has been in power for just a week, so it’s not proper to talk about an immediate transition. So let him just continue,” Anwar said. He did not give a time frame for this move. Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy in the 1990s, but fell out with his mentor during the 1997-99 Asian financial crisis. He was eventually sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi movement, challenging Mahathir’s government.
Within weeks, he was arrested and jailed on disputed charges of sodomy and corruption. After being freed in 2004, Anwar was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2015, when Najib was in power.
Both times, he and his supporters said the charges were politically motivated. Mahathir was perfect as prime minister right now as the new government goes about dismantling the obsolete and corrupt system put in place by the long-ruling Umno-led coalition, Anwar said. Umno’s race-based politics and patronage system have been slammed by its critics and blamed for the bulging civil service and weak institutions like the judiciary.
“Probably he seems to be the right man… I am a bit more moderate and have a softer image,” Anwar said. “Because of how I suffered, I always think how any decision would cause sufferings to those affected. So I’m a bit more considerate… and that may not be good in these times when we have to make sure the elements of the old regime do not resurface.” Anwar and his party have faced a protracted struggle to gain power due to electoral systems and government institutions working in favour of the ruling party. He said the old regime had been dismantled, but the new government could not assume it would retain the level of support and euphoria seen in the last week. “From my discussion with the PM (Mahathir) this morning, that seems to be the sentiment… we will have to deliver,” he said. “I have given that message. We don’t want Umno 2.0.” – Reuters]]>