Mahathir goes down memory lane amid a stalemate with Anwar Ibrahim.
With the latest spat over Mahathir’s claim that Anwar was incapable of leading the country during a crisis, the icy relationship between the two continues to deteriorate.
In a lengthy blog post today, Mahathir defended his decision to resign as the prime minister and denied being a stumbling block in Anwar’s pathway to the country’s highest office.
“It is true that in the past, I was of the opinion that he (Anwar) was not qualified to become the prime minister.
“But when (former prime minister) Najib Abdul Razak became a kleptocrat, I was willing to work with Anwar to take down Najib.
“I did not object to Harapan’s proposal for Anwar to replace me when I resign (as prime minister).
“But even before it was time, Anwar’s followers started to pressure me to resign,” he said.
Mahathir said amid Anwar’s supporters pressuring him to step down in late February, Muhyiddin Yassin used it to push for the Bersatu’s exit from Harapan.
“On Feb 21, I was told by Muhyiddin and another of Bersatu leaders that during the Harapan presidential council meeting, I will be pressured to resign for Anwar to become prime minister. I would also supposedly be forced to appoint Anwar as deputy prime minister.
“Muhyiddin’s purpose was for Bersatu to agree to quit Harapan so that the Harapan government would fall. Muhyiddin, (Gombak MP) Azmin Ali and (Larut MP) Hamzah Zainudin had planned to form a new government to replace Harapan,” he said.
However, Mahathir said the alleged pressure he would face during the Harapan presidential council did not materialise.
“The malicious plan to reject me did not happen as claimed by Muhyiddin and his followers. I was of the opinion that there was no need for Bersatu to quit Harapan,” he said.
Mahathir said he also appealed to Muhyiddin and Bersatu not to quit Harapan during a meeting on Feb 23.
“I proposed that the plan for Bersatu to quit Harapan to be postponed. I recommended that Bersatu wait and observe Harapan’s move.
“But in short, the supreme council rejected my recommendation and decided to quit Harapan immediately. There were even people who slammed the table and strongly supported Muhyiddin to quit Harapan,” he said.
“For me, the decision was final. It showed that confidence in me as the Bersatu chairperson had been lost. The decision also meant that Bersatu had quit Harapan and the Harapan government had fallen,” he added.
Therefore, Mahathir said he decided to resign.
He said Harapan had an opportunity to regain Putrajaya when the Agong interviewed all MPs to determine who commanded a majority ahead of Muhyiddin’s swearing-in.
At the time, Mahathir said he had the support of 66 MPs, and he could easily gain a new majority if 92 Harapan MPs also supported him.
He did not disclose who the 66 lawmakers were, but it is generally accepted that he was referring to some Umno, PAS and GPS MPs.
After Anwar’s bid to become prime minister then failed, PH reconsidered nominating Mahathir, but the Sarawak-based GPS and several other MPs had by then abandoned Mahathir.
“After Anwar’s nomination failed, Harapan returned to support me as the prime ministerial candidate.
“Anwar agreed on the condition that he becomes deputy prime minister. I disagreed as I wanted to maintain the old cabinet.
“In the end, Anwar agreed to the effort to regain a majority for Harapan to return as the government. With support from the Sabah MPs, we would have 114.
“Unfortunately, by then, Muhyiddin managed to convince the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to appoint him as the prime minister,” Mahathir said.
“If I got the 92 from PH, thus the PH government would be maintained, and I would be the PM of PH.
“When I resign, Anwar will be the prime minister according to PH’s plans.
“When they named Anwar as their choice, PH effectively rejected me as prime minister.
“If all three parties in Harapan nominated me as their candidate (for prime minister), I would have 158 votes, including the 66 already supporting me.
“However, they supported Anwar. In the end, I lost, and Anwar failed,” he said.
Mahathir also said that Anwar cannot be prime minister simply because he lacks the numbers.
“We all know that Anwar cannot be prime minister. Anwar’s statement about having enough numbers is untrue.
“It is clear that even after he had set me aside, Anwar did not win,” Mahathir said.
He said Anwar had also claimed to have had the numbers in 2008 but had failed to prove it.
“Was I also the one who stopped him then?” Mahathir asked.
He said he was pressured by Anwar’s supporters to resign the prime minister’s office prematurely to make way for their leader.
“I did not oppose the Pakatan Harapan proposal for Anwar to replace me upon my resignation. But even when it was not yet time, Anwar’s followers had demanded that I resign.”
Mahathir said Anwar had even vetoed DAP and Amanah’s proposal to let him be the interim prime minister for six months.
“It was suggested that I hold the post of prime minister for six months before surrendering the office to Anwar.
“Amanah and some DAP members agreed but Anwar said no.”
Anwar had rejected the idea even after I pledged to hand over office to him after six months, said Mahathir.
“Anwar did not want me involved at all.”
Previously, Mahathir had publicly said he would hand over power to Anwar, but it was later revealed that the former premier intended to eventually resign but did not plan to muster the necessary support for Anwar from his party Bersatu.
Meanwhile, Mahathir reiterated that he is still willing to set aside his personal differences with Anwar if it would lead to an amicable solution for the nation’s sake.
He said he could still muster the support to regain Putrajaya with the backing of all PH lawmakers, including PKR.
The opposition, spearheaded by Harapan, has been attempting to regain power, but the icy relations between Anwar and Mahathir have been a stumbling block.
Anwar has maintained that his announcement of a majority in September still stands, but some time is needed to iron out the process.
“The process is still ongoing. It would not make sense for me to seek an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong if I was not confident with my numbers,” he had said.