KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said on Friday (March 13) that he was not discounting the possibility that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) pact could return to power in May, countering the view of former premier Mahathir Mohamad that lawmakers who had supported his side had defected in return for "sweets".
Mr Anwar, president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), one of the three members of PH, also refused to respond to jibes against him by Tun Dr Mahathir who blamed Mr Anwar's "impatience" to become prime minister for PH's collapse three weeks ago.
A scheduled Parliament sitting this week was cancelled by new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, with the next session slated only for May 18.
PH is hoping to muster support from the minimum 112 MPs in the 222-strong Parliament to oust the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin, amid talk that PH does not have the minimum number of lawmakers now.
"We will see what should be done in the next few weeks. We are not discounting any possibility," Mr Anwar, 72, told a press conference.
When asked if all hope is lost in a no-confidence vote in Parliament's May sitting, Mr Anwar said the pact is "discussing and looking at avenues".
Mr Anwar indicated that Dr Mahathir is no longer part of the PH coalition, but at the same time, he said some of the PH leaders were to meet him on Friday.
"Dr Mahathir is not a member of PH. But we are open to discussion; in fact, he had invited some of us to see him today,'' he said.
Dr Mahathir, 94, in an interview with Malay daily Sinar Harian published on Wednesday (March 11) said the Muhyiddin government could last until the next general election, which is due in 2023.
"It can last until the GE. Now that he (Muhyiddin) has become the prime minister, he can give a lot of sweets to many people. I found that some of my supporters are now appointed ministers, so they moved there," said Dr Mahathir.
The PH government collapsed on Feb 24 when Dr Mahathir unexpectedly quit the premiership, saying later that he had lost support from the majority of leaders in the party that he chaired, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
The president of Bersatu, Mr Muhyiddin, had by then cobbled together a new alliance.
They comprise most of Bersatu's MPs, renegade lawmakers from PKR led by then deputy president Azmin Ali, and others from opposition factions Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Gabungan Parti Sarawak.
Mr Muhyiddin, 72, was sworn in as prime minister on March 1 by the Malaysian King.
At the news conference on Friday, Mr Anwar dismissed questions about ever becoming prime minister, saying his focus is on cleansing his PKR membership of "traitors" while also bringing attention to the economy and dealing with the coronavirus.
The three PH members - PKR, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara - has 92 lawmakers on its side.
Just before PM Muhyiddin was sworn in as prime minister, PH leaders had declared they had the minimum 112 MPs.
In an interview by Nikkei Asian Review published on Thursday (March 12), Dr Mahathir said Mr Anwar's lust for power had cost them both the country's top job.
"Well, I think he has always been impatient," Dr Mahathir told Nikkei. "During the last time (1998) when he was in Umno, I promoted him until he was the second man, where he would take over when I retire. But he couldn't wait because I was staying too long and he started some movement to overthrow me, but of course he failed."
This time around, Dr Mahathir said: "He was campaigning, through his boys, to ask me to step down. I felt that I will step down when I think that it is safe to step down."
Asked to comment on these remarks, Mr Anwar on Friday said: "My patience is legendary. I don't think I can easily be provoked. Tun Mahathir has said many things for many decades. I don't think this affects my position or the party's position in setting our priorities".
He said he has not ruled out another working relationship with the elderly statesman.
"I'm not discounting any relationship or contact with anyone, including Tun Mahathir," said the PKR president.