PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Working with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's prime minister-in-waiting, is more important than allowing Najib Razak to continue administering the country, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In an interview with New Straits Times published on Sunday (April 7), Tun Mahathir said although he had previously criticised Anwar's ability to lead, he found Najib to be a "worse leader than Anwar".
"The worst leader," Dr Mahathir emphasised. "I think that to have Anwar replace a person like Najib is more acceptable than to have Najib carry on, so I decided that I would work (with) Anwar, whatever I may have said about him, whatever he has said against me before," he said.
Dr Mahathir said despite their turbulent history, he found it far more important to work with Mr Anwar in order to displace Najib rather than continue quarrelling.
"I knew if we didn't work together, Najib would be the next prime minister and that would be disastrous for the country," he said.
The 93-year-old premier also voiced his trust in Mr Anwar's leadership ability in building the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat.
"In fact, he was the architect of Pakatan Rakyat. Of course, Pakatan Rakyat failed because they were not that cohesive. But after we came together, we were able to work much more closely.
"The fact remains that he was from Umno, and Umno, of course, was not very liked by the opposition. He left Umno and he was able to bring DAP, PAS even, and his party together, so he has leadership qualities," he said.
The Pakatan Rakyat, formed in April 2008, was a predecessor of the current ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance that grouped Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). An internal dispute in 2015 between DAP and PAS led to the latter's departure and its splinter party, Parti Amanah Negara, joining the new PH alliance.
Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, comprising former Umno members, joined the PH alliance in 2016.
Asked whether PH faced the possibility of a break-up without him leading the coalition, the PH chairman said that Mr Anwar would know how to keep the PH together if he resigns, but that for now there isn't any substitute for his position.
He said, however, that Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Mr Anwar's wife, had been able to stand in for him on days when he is away from Cabinet meetings.
"Well, this is a difficult question to answer because I have to sum up whatever it is that they (have) argued (about) and declare that this is the decision that we are making. I cannot sum up unless, of course, they agree with my views and these are sometimes very contrary views.
"So far, I have been able to lead. We don't see any substitute yet at the moment, but there have been occasions when I left the Cabinet and Wan Azizah was leading and she was able to conduct the meetings, at least for the short period I was away. There was once when I was out of the country, she conducted the meeting," he said.
"So, in a sense, the structure is expected. Now, who fills in after me, or after Wan Azizah, is something else. Of course, what we say is that Anwar will take over. Anwar has been a deputy prime minister before. He ought to know how to keep the party together," he said.