KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister and current opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad apologised to the crowd at a campaigning rally in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (May 1), saying he was responsible for Prime Minister Najib Razak's rise to power.
"The biggest mistake that I have made in my life is choosing Najib," he told them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to fix this mistake so I am trying my best."
Dr Mahathir was speaking at Desa Pandan in Titiwangsa, a marginal parliamentary seat in Kuala Lumpur, where hundreds waited in the rain for two hours to hear the veteran politician speak.
The words may have rung familiar as he has expressed similar regrets about his former deputy prime minister and immediate successor, Mr Abdullah Badawi, in the years after he stepped down.
At the time, Dr Mahathir advocated for Mr Najib to take over. The two fell out, however, after fierce criticism from the 92-year-old over scandal-plagued state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad, which Mr Najib had advised.
Dr Mahathir left the largest ruling party, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), in 2016 and started his own, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. He is now running for the Langkawi parliamentary seat in his home state of Kedah – part of a plan to return him to the prime minister's office. Another former deputy whom he sacked, Anwar Ibrahim, will take over once he is able to after his release from prison in June.
At the rally, Dr Mahathir also shut down allegations from deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi that the veteran politician was fishing for sympathy votes. Mr Zahid had reportedly said Dr Mahathir would stage a trip to the hospital on polling day.
The 92-year-old said he did not need that to get support.
The opposition coalition chairman said he believes the government is afraid of him, alluding to an incident in Johor where his face was cut out from a billboard. This was thought to have been done to comply with Election Commission guidelines restricting faces on campaigning posters to presidents and deputy presidents only.
"Don't worry, you won't see my face everywhere anymore after May 9," he said.