PORT DICKSON: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the man slated to take over from him, Anwar Ibrahim, have attempted to show they have buried the hatchet on the campaign trail in Port Dickson.
Anwar is running for the parliamentary seat of Port Dickson in a by-election that was triggered for him, after being unable to contest in the May general election as he was in prison.
On Monday (Oct 8), his former mentor-turned-rival-turned-ally again, Mahathir, headlined an event in support of Anwar - the first time the two have shared a stage in two decades.
"I am saying this with all humility. I know him. I love him as a father and a leader," Anwar told the crowd.
"I have fought against him. And now I accept that he is the best man to lead Malaysia now."
Anwar needs a parliamentary seat to take over from Mahathir as prime minister, a pledge made prior to the polls when both formed an alliance.
Rumours have been persistent, however, that Anwar’s rush to return to parliament is an unwelcome challenge to the 93-year-old.
While he professed love for him at Port Dickson, Anwar’s relationship with Mahathir for the better part of 20 years has been hostile.
The incoming Parti Keadilan Rakyat president blamed his ex-boss for the corruption and sodomy charges he faced not long after Mahathir sacked him as his deputy in the 1990s.
They put aside that animosity to defeat the Barisan Nasional coalition for the first time in history in May, with Anwar’s party winning the majority of parliamentary seats.
Mahathir and Anwar have rarely been seen together since. At their first joint rally, however, the prime minister endorsed his coalition-mate, albeit less effusively.
While he spoke more on the successes of Pakatan Harapan as a whole, Mahathir said he was happy to be there and to campaign for Anwar.
“I hope this victory can be given to Anwar Ibrahim so we can work - not for him, not for Mahathir, not for (defence minister) Mat Sabu, not for (finance minister) Lim Guan Eng. But to work for the country we love and for the people who gave us - Pakatan Harapan - a chance to govern the country."
Mahathir’s presence alone is an endorsement Anwar could use in Port Dickson, where he is facing a seven-cornered fight - including from former state chief minister Isa Samad, as well as his one-time aide Saiful Bukhari, who accused him of sodomy.
While Anwar is largely tipped to win, Mahathir may help boost his majority, by reminding voters of the federal government backing that comes with voting for a Pakatan Harapan candidate.
On a national scale, Mahathir and his ministers in Port Dickson could be viewed as an assurance to the public too that the coalition they voted in is still united.
Mahathir said: “Ladies and gentlemen, if I were to think about the past, If Anwar were to think about what happened to him, I don’t think we could unite.
"Mat Sabu was in jail too during my time. Guan Eng too. How could we work together? But they were willing to forget the past to face a new challenge. As did I.”
If Anwar wins this by-election, he could be in parliament with Mahathir as soon as Monday when parliament reconvenes.