Malaysia's opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) yesterday named Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as its prime ministerial candidate for the next general election, and said it was open to "negotiations" and "cooperation" with other parties.
The decisions were made after a PH leaders' retreat that began on Thursday in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, and come amid the leak of a controversial audio clip purportedly of Mr Anwar, the opposition leader, speaking with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
"Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim will lead the campaign for the 15th General Election as the prime minister candidate," the three-party coalition, comprising Mr Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat and allies Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara, said in a statement.
It also said it was "open to negotiations and cooperation with any parties... for the sake of the people", in what could be a signal of tacit approval from DAP and Amanah for the pact to work with their long-time nemesis Umno.
Previously, DAP and Amanah repeatedly rejected the idea of working with Umno if it involved its leaders, who are facing graft charges in court, while Umno has declared it would not team up with Mr Anwar or the Chinese-led DAP.
In the four-minute audio clip that has been making the rounds, two men are heard engaging in banter and joking about the handling of the recent Umno general assembly, held on March 27 and 28. Both Mr Anwar and Zahid have denied the voices heard in the clip are theirs.
Zahid, who is facing 47 charges involving criminal breach of trust, receiving bribes and money laundering, said it was a malicious attempt to oust him from Umno, while Mr Anwar accused the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government of spreading lies.
Umno, which is currently part of the ruling PN government, has said it will leave the alliance and go it alone at the next polls.
Deputy police chief Acryl Sani Abdullah was quoted by the Malaysiakini news site as saying the police will authenticate the voices in the clip, following police reports.
PH also said in yesterday's statement that it will begin nationwide campaigning soon for the upcoming election, widely tipped to be held after the country's state of emergency is lifted in August.
The opposition coalition has urged Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to advise the King to end the emergency and allow Parliament to reconvene.
Elections are not due until 2023, but Tan Sri Muhyiddin has pledged to call for polls after the Covid-19 pandemic is under control and the state of emergency ends on Aug 1.
Malaysia saw a third Covid-19 wave following state polls in Sabah last September, resulting in a high of over 5,000 cases in January.
A total of 1,854 new cases were recorded yesterday.