KUALA LUMPUR: Signs of disunity rose to the surface in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) on Saturday (Feb 29), amid an ongoing power tussle in Putrajaya.
This came as Dr Mahathir Mohamad reunited with his Pakatan Harapan (PH) allies in the former ruling coalition and declared that he had the numbers to become prime minister again, less than a week after he resigned from the country's top post.
Bersatu announced on Friday that it had chosen party president Muhyiddin Yassin as its prime minister candidate.
On Saturday, Mr Muhyiddin declared himself as Bersatu's chairman, ignoring a party statement that Dr Mahathir’s resignation as chairman on Monday had been retracted.
“Article 16.9 of the party’s constitution states that if the chairman resigns or is terminated, the party president has to assume the post until a new chairman is selected," said Mr Muhyiddin.
“Since Bersatu has not elected a new chairman, I, as the president, will assume the role of the chairman until an election is held,” he said.
Shortly after Mr Muhyiddin's announcement, Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya issued a statement stating that the only individual with the absolute power to lead the party was its chairman, Dr Mahathir.
“Therefore, all party’s actions and directions are subject to the decisions made by YAB Tun (Dr Mahathir) as Bersatu chairman,” he said.
Bersatu Youth vice-chief Aizad Roslan also rejected the party’s decision to name Mr Muhyiddin as prime minister candidate.
He said in a statement on Saturday the youth wing will continue to support the party’s supreme council’s decision to back Dr Mahathir as prime minister.
Similarly, youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said he would not work with the corrupt and form a government with them.
ANWAR OPTED OUT OF CABINET: PKR MP
Mr Muhyiddin had on Monday pulled Bersatu out of PH and partnered with Barisan Nasional, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and others in a bid to form a new government.
With these parties backing him, Mr Muhyiddin emerged as the frontrunner in the race for the coveted prime minister post.
PH’s original choice for PM candidate was Mr Anwar Ibrahim, after Dr Mahathir put forth a proposal to form a unity government that cuts across party lines.
However, on Saturday morning, PH backtracked to say it would now support Dr Mahathir as prime minister again, having successfully lobbied the 94-year-old to restore the PH government.
In an apparent endorsement of this latest decision, Mr Anwar tweeted: “It’s time to do the right thing for the rakyat (people) and our beloved nation."
Mr Wong Chen, a lawmaker from Mr Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, revealed on Twitter that Mr Anwar had volunteered to not join the Cabinet and make way for Dr Mahathir in order to keep PH alive.
“PKR MPs gathered at the hotel are all extremely touched by the sense of duty and sacrifice of Anwar Ibrahim, in paving the way for PH 2.0.
“Many are close to tears,” he wrote.
POLITICAL LEADERS MET MALAYSIAN KING
Meanwhile, there was a flurry of activity at Istana Negara on Saturday, as leaders of political parties arrived to seek an audience with Malaysian King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who had asked them to present their prime minister candidates.
First to arrive were Mr Muhyiddin, Parti Islam Se-Malaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang and UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, according to Malaysian media.
The second group to see the king was PH leaders from Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara.
Mr Anwar showed up at about 1.30pm.
He told Malaysian media earlier that he was going to tell Malaysia's monarch that Dr Mahathir was now the prime ministerial candidate of the PH.
He thanked coalition members for agreeing with his decision "to take a step back and to put forward Mahathir as our candidate for prime minister, in order to avoid a political crisis and being thrown into the old system that we rejected", according to Reuters.