Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday denied a claim that he was behind a move in February to form the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition with Malay parties from both sides of the aisle, reiterating that he would not team up with "kleptocrats" in the Umno leadership.
Senior Minister for Economy Azmin Ali made the claim in an interview published in The Star on Sunday, during which he also "revealed" that Tun Dr Mahathir was meant to remain as PM with PN.
"I have repeatedly explained that it's untrue because PN is made up of kleptocrats and is backed by Umno en bloc. If I were the one who planned it, why am I against it... and if I had accepted it, I would've definitely remained as the prime minister as claimed by Azmin," Dr Mahathir said.
He added that it was Datuk Seri Azmin who hatched the plan to leave the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to form a new government with Umno, and to further his ambition of eventually becoming premier.
"If there was anyone who had earnestly planned to form PN and exit PH, it would have definitely been Azmin and Muhyiddin who had gained the most. Don't forget, when all this was happening, Azmin's position in Keadilan and PH was under threat," he added, referring to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Mr Azmin's former party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
After the collapse of the PH government, Tan Sri Muhyiddin was appointed PM on March 1 and he continues to lead the PN administration, albeit with a slim majority in Parliament. Mr Azmin is now a senior minister and widely seen as the de facto deputy PM.
Recalling the events leading up to the fall of PH, Dr Mahathir said Mr Azmin was at risk of losing his place in the PKR leadership hierarchy after a video of him purportedly engaging in a homosexual affair went viral and his relationship with party president Anwar Ibrahim deteriorated to the point that it became "untenable".
"This is because to him (Azmin), the most important thing is to block Anwar from becoming PM. If PH were to continue to rule, it is a sure thing that Anwar would have had the chance of becoming PM," Dr Mahathir said, adding that he was convinced Mr Azmin had been planning the formation of PN for some time.
In the interview, Mr Azmin claimed Dr Mahathir was meant to remain as PM with the new coalition, which was to include Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), as well as then opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia.
However, the plan did not have the explicit approval of Bersatu's allies in PH - PKR, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara.