Malaysia’s Mahathir backs new candidate for prime minister

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a joint news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has thrown his support behind the chief minister of the Borneon state of Sabah as candidate to lead the country, a statement from Mahathir said on Saturday.

Mahathir said supporters and allies had unanimously agreed at a meeting on Thursday to nominate Shafie Apdal, among the early leaders who opposed the government of Najib Razak which Mahathir ousted in 2018, as next prime minister.

“I fully support this proposal,” Mahathir said. “The important thing is that we have a solid stand for the people to know our position.” Malaysia’s next national elections are due by September 2023 but there has been speculation of an earlier snap poll.

Thursday’s meeting also agreed to propose Mahathir’s former deputy-turned-rival Anwar Ibrahim, and his son Mukhriz Mahathir, as deputy prime ministers.

Malaysia’s opposition has been scrambling in recent weeks to muster a credible candidate to spearhead its challenge to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration, but was unable to decide between Mahathir or Anwar.

The veteran politicians had joined hands in 2018 to oust the then prime minister Najib, with Anwar becoming Mahathir’s successor in waiting.

Muhyiddin was unexpectedly made prime minister in March after a week of political turmoil punctuated by Mahathir’s shock resignation.

Mahathir has pushed for a confidence vote in parliament in Muhyiddin’s leadership and said he would seek to oust him for bringing back to power a graft-tainted party rejected by voters in an historic election two years ago.

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