KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister could once again helm the country, with the opposition coalition naming Mahathir Mohamad as its interim PM pick should it emerge victorious in the elections.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar's wife, was also announced as Pakatan Harapan's choice for deputy prime minister at the coalition's annual convention on Sunday (Jan 7).
Mahathir, 92, would serve as prime minister until his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim is ready to take over upon his release from prison, where he is serving a sentence for a sodomy conviction that the opposition insists is politically motivated.
Anwar will be released on Jun 8 and if the opposition wins, the component parties have agreed to immediately commence the legal processes to obtain a royal pardon for him, secretary general Saifuddin Abdullah said at the convention.
"So that Anwar can immediately play a role in the federal government and subsequently be proposed as a candidate for the eighth prime minister," he said.
Pakatan also announced its seat allocations for peninsula Malaysia for the coming polls, with Mahathir's party Bersatu set to contest 52 seats, PKR 51, the Democratic Action Party 35 and Parti Amanah Negara 27.
Mahathir, who earned a reputation during his 22-year tenure as prime minister of being a no-nonsense authoritarian with little time for dissenters promoting liberal values, stands to become the world's oldest leader if the opposition wins.
He had told Channel NewsAsia in an interview in June that it would be "churlish" for him not to consider being prime minister again.
The Mahathir-Anwar coalition and their endorsement of each other is a turnaround from their bitter feud that has shaped Malaysia's political landscape for nearly two decades.
Anwar was once a protege of Mahathir, and the rising star of Malaysian politics, but they had a falling-out in the late 1990s.
Soon afterwards, Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy and graft, after being sacked as the deputy prime minister. He denied the charges, dismissing them as politically motivated.
Mahathir addressed this at the convention.
He said: "It wasn't easy for him (Anwar) to accept me. Yes, we could shake hands, but to accept me as an opposition leader against UMNO wasn't easy. That's why we took a long time, but in the end, priority was given to the struggle against Najib.
"Anwar's family suffered for 20 years and for them to forget this wasn't easy. I owe them and I say thank you to Anwar and his family."