Mahathir: New narrative in place to make Zahid DPM

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Anwar likely to name Zahid as one of two deputies as he balances a stable administration against a strong Malay opposition bench.

Efforts are underway to whitewash Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s image so that he can be appointed as the deputy prime minister in Anwar Ibrahim’s cabinet, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

The former prime minister said Zahid’s part in the new government was important to ensure Anwar remains in power.

Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan could not muster a majority to form a government on its own and had to work with rivals Barisan Nasional and Gabungan Parti Sarawak in order to form a unity government.

Anwar is set to name his cabinet by the end of this week.

“They (certain parties) are now white washing Zahid’s image. In our legal system, you are innocent until proven guilty, so they will say he qualifies.”

Bernama

“They will demand (that Zahid gets the DPM post) because if Umno pulls out, then the government will collapse,” he told The Malaysian Insight in a recent interview.

Earlier today, party sources said Anwar is likely to name Zahid as one of two deputies as the new prime minister balances a stable administration against a strong Malay opposition bench.

Critics have been up in arms this week on speculation that Zahid could be a deputy prime minister, pointing out he still has 47 corruption and money laundering charges to answer for, even though he was acquitted of 40 bribery charges in September.

Dr Mahathir said Anwar would need the support of all parties to keep his government intact.

“Post-GE14, Azmin (former PKR deputy president Mohamad Azmin Ali) together with some MPs from Bersatu had managed to undermine PH so much that they lost their majority. Then I was no longer PM.”

“So, they (PH) couldn’t be a government,” he said referring to the Sheraton move which saw the collapse of the PH government in February 2020.

He said similarly, former prime minister Muhyiddin also couldn’t get a majority and his government too collapsed in August 2022.

“Then, when Muhyiddin couldn’t free Najib Razak (jailed former prime minister) from the charges, Najib pulled out 15 MPs and Muhyiddin’s government collapsed.

“Then his DPM (Ismail Sabri Yaakob) from Umno became the PM,” said Dr Mahathir.

Zahid turned Barisan Nasional’s (BN) worst-ever electoral showing in history of 30 parliament seats into a strategic kingmaker role – supporting PH with 82 seats over PN, which had claimed 73 seats 11 days ago.

“The reality is Zahid swung it for Anwar to be prime minister and that has to be recognised.

“He is also the only one who can keep those 30 BN seats intact,” a source, familiar with the talks in forming Anwar’s cabinet, said.

“The way we see it, give Anwar the freedom of choosing his deputies and cabinet. If it doesn’t work out, throw them out,” he added.

The other deputy is said to be from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), given that Anwar said he would name two to the position, which is a political convention rather than a constitutional provision.

“Every coalition or bloc that joined Anwar has made requests, but he is clear that it is a small government, so that means ensuring those in the cabinet can keep their supporters intact.

“That just leaves Zahid for BN. No one else can do that job,” an Anwar ally said.

Apart from Zahid, the other BN frontrunner for the post is Rembau MP and Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan.

However, he had earlier said BN should be impartial and remain in opposition in the race to be government.

A BN source said Anwar had choices, but the reverse could be said if BN had supported PN to be the government.

“We’re debating Zahid this week. Imagine if Perikatan was in power, we would be debating whether Hadi should be deputy prime minister. Imagine that first,” he said, referring to firebrand PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, now leading the largest Malay party with 43 seats in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat.

“Compared to Hadi, Zahid is a better bet – and he has been DPM before,” he added.