Mahathir places blame on Muhyiddin and Anwar for Pakatan Harapan's downfall

In a photo taken on Feb 21, 2020, (from left) Mr Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Dr Wan Azizah, and Mr Muhyiddin Yassin during the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council Meeting press conference. PHOTO: BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has apportioned blame on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the president of his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) party, and his Parti Keadilan Rakyat ally Anwar Ibrahim for the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Speaking to Bersatu members in a closed-door meeting on Sunday (March 1), Dr Mahathir said Mr Muhyiddin, who was sworn in as the country's Prime Minister earlier in the day, wanted to leverage Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's desire to be prime minister and create a political crisis, The Star reported.

Dr Mahathir, the former prime minister, whose chairmanship of Bersatu is also in question, said the "real" crisis only happened when Mr Muhyiddin took the party out of the PH coalition.

"On the day when we had the Pakatan presidential council meeting, I received information from my political secretary that Anwar was apparently going to demand that I appoint him as deputy prime minister," Dr Mahathir said.

"So of course we got angry. But this did not happen - what happened was that all of the leaders in Pakatan supported me (to go on as prime minister)," he added.

Dr Mahathir was responding to a question from a party member on whether Mr Muhyiddin's move to break ranks in the party was aimed at preventing Mr Anwar from taking over the premiership as agreed prior to the PH's victory at the 2018 General Election.

"Muhyiddin wanted an excuse for a crisis to happen - but he could not get it from Anwar," said Dr Mahathir. "When he took Bersatu out of Pakatan, that is when the crisis really happened."

The closed-door meeting was streamed live on Parti Amanah Negara's Facebook page before it was taken down, the New Straits Times reported.

Dr Mahathir resigned last Monday, leading to his party's exit from the PH as members of his Bersatu party, led by Mr Muhyiddin, appeared to join forces opposition parties Umno and PAS.

But he was asked by the King, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, to stay on as interim leader, triggering a week-long race for the premiership and a battle for control of Parliament that split Bersatu into rival camps supporting Dr Mahathir and Mr Muhyiddin, with Mr Anwar also seeking the candidacy.

Mr Anwar and his allies in the PH later on Friday backed Dr Mahathir for the PM post, both claiming that they had enough support in Parliament to claim a majority.

But the leadership race ended on Saturday with Mr Muhyiddin's appointment by the King as Prime Minister.

Dr Mahathir said at Sunday's event that he had resigned with the thought that Mr Anwar could have taken over his place. But he said, there were people who wanted him to stay on.

"If the people want me to contest, I will. If I get more votes, then I will come back. But Anwar thought that he would get it instead," he said.

Dr Mahathir also said that Mr Anwar had scuppered his plans to be reappointed as prime minister by initially refusing to back his candidacy.

"I was sad that I lost, because Anwar asked Pakatan to nominate him. He had 92 votes. I had 60, or even more. If Pakatan voted for me then I would have gotten the majority," he said.

"He wanted to be the prime minister, even though he knew he couldn't get the majority," said Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir added that Anwar had always been "obsessed" with becoming prime minister. "In the past, he had a lot of support. But now, people support me," he said.

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