Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has admitted that there was an attempt to persuade Malay-Muslim representatives in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to change side following the conclusion of the May 9 polls.
In an interview with regional magazine Mekong Review, Dr Mahathir said this attempt was what caused the delay in PH announcing its election victory.
“If they could be persuaded to cross over to the side of Umno and PAS, these people would have the majority to form the government. This was what caused the delay in announcing our election victory,” he was quoted saying.
“We knew we had won by 8.30pm, but we didn’t get the official announcement until about 2am, because during that short period of time there was a lot of manoeuvring, which was not visible to the people.
“We knew, and later we learnt even more about it,” he added, but refused to name those MPs.
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had then refused to concede defeat until a press conference on the next day.
In October, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had also admitted that she was first offered the post of prime minister by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V after PH won.
When asked on the difficulties within, Dr Mahathir said it was related to racial and religious politics as there was a fear that PH was not going to respect the position of Islam as much as the previous government had.
“So there was an idea that if the Muslims all came together, the new opposition were largely Muslim, with Umno and PAS, they could drag other Muslims [from our coalition], have the majority and form a Malay-Muslim government, but they were advised against that,” he said.
The prime minister admitted it was never easy to work with the former adversaries, but sharing the same objective, which was to get rid of Najib, brought them together.
“The first time I worked with them was when I started a People’s Declaration [calling for the removal of Najib],” he said, referring to his former rivals.
“I didn’t ask them, but they supported it. I talked to them and they had the same objective I had – to get rid of Najib. We came from different backgrounds, but we were willing to forget the past.
“We were focused on achieving the same objective and that enabled me to work with them and them to work with me,” he added.
Dr Mahathir told Mekong Review that Malaysia succeeded with peaceful transition of government after the election was because the then opposition was not violent although they were tried to bring down the government.
“In this election, we expected to lose because the government was so powerful and were doing all kinds of improper things, like bribery and threats,” said the 93-year-old.
“I thought that if they lost they would not accept the result, but they lost by such a big margin they were caught off guard and did not know what to do.
“Great numbers had supported the [then] opposition, and there were also people who advised the government to accept the result,” he said.
Therefore, he said, the transition was smooth from the outside, but it was not very smooth from the inside, including attempts from within to reject our success, but in the end better sense prevailed. – Malay Mail