June 19, 2020 / 10:04 AM / 15 days ago

Ties in Malaysia's opposition fray as talks on PM candidate fail

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s opposition has failed to resolve wrangling over which of its two most senior leaders should spearhead its challenge to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration.

The opposition has been scrambling to muster a credible alternative to Muhyiddin, who was unexpectedly made prime minister in March after a week of political turmoil punctuated by the shock resignation of his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

But its search for a leader has been unable to settle on either Mahathir or Anwar Ibrahim, veteran politicians who joined hands in 2018 to oust then prime minister Najib Razak, with Anwar becoming Mahathir’s successor-in-waiting.

Muhyiddin’s appointment was the unintended consequence of a plan, green-lit by Mahathir, to block Anwar from becoming prime minister, after Mahathir became convinced Anwar would not be able to command a majority. But Mahathir ended up being outplayed by colleagues and close allies, who included Muhyiddin.

Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, which holds 38 of the 222 seats in Malaysia’s parliament, said it cannot accept Mahathir back at the helm, insisting that the only way forward is to place Anwar as the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate.

In a statement, the party said it remained “open to discussing with all parties”, including Mahathir, on ways to “save Malaysia and return the people’s mandate”.

The party issued its statement after its partners in the Pakatan Harapan pact made known their support for Mahathir to lead them, and set up the stage for his return to a possible third term as prime minister.

Mahathir had pushed for a confidence vote in parliament in Muhyiddin’s leadership, and has said that the prime minister will face “very big trouble” as the opposition will seek to oust him at every turn.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan, Editing by William Maclean

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