KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Saturday (Nov 12) rallied opposition parties to “unite under one party, one symbol and one party manifesto”, saying that it was the only way to win the coming elections against the ruling Barisan Nasional government.
Speaking at the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan convention, the 91-year-old said the United Indigenous People's Party (BERSATU) – the new party set up by him and former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin – is ready to join the coalition.
Malaysia’s opposition has struggled to regain its footing since a bitter fallout with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) last year over the controversial issue of hudud, or Islamic criminal law.
"It will be a matter of time, but first we need to give PAS some time. If PAS were to contest on its own, it will lose," Dr Mahathir said at the convention.
He would not say how long his party would wait for PAS before coming on board, but said negotiations are ongoing between Mr Muhyiddin and PAS.
Selangor chief minister and People's Justice Party deputy president Azmin Ali said PAS needs to decide soon – preferably six months before the next general election – so that the opposition coalition can plan its seat allocation and election strategy.
Speaking at the convention, opposition coalition chief Dr Wan Azizah warned of major consequences if the opposition parties could not agree. "If you love the country, please put the people's interest first," she said.
As the convention drew to a close, a "Free Anwar" campaign was officially launched, with opposition party leaders demanding the release of Anwar Ibrahim. Mr Anwar, who is Dr Wan Azizah's husband, is serving a five-year jail term for sodomy.
Although not due until mid-2018, Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to call for a snap poll by the first half of next year.