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Malaysia’s Mahathir says he has support to return as PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad indicated Saturday that he will reconcile with the former ruling alliance he led with rival Anwar Ibrahim in an about-turn that follows a week of political turmoil that followed his resignation as prime minister.

Mahathir said he met with leaders from Anwar’s Alliance of Hope early Saturday and is “now confident that I have the numbers needed to garner majority support” in Parliament to return as prime minister.

“I am therefore prepared to stand as prospective candidate for Prime Minister,” he said, adding that the decision will be conveyed to the king.

Mahathir didn’t make clear in the statement if he was restoring the former alliance, which won a stunning victory in 2018 elections. That victory ousted a ruling alliance, once led by Mahathir, that had governed Malaysia since independence in 1957 but had become entangled in widespread corruption scandal.

The unlikely alliance between Mahthir and Anwar, longtime rivals, crumbled Monday after Mahathir’s Bersatu party quit in a bid to form a new government with several opposition parties. Mahathir resigned in protest of the plan, which would have required him to work with the the governing alliance he ousted in the 2018 polls.

The Alliance of Hope initially nominated Anwar as the next prime minister but said Saturday in a statement that they will now support Mahathir as prime minister.

The move is believed aimed at countering plans by Bersatu to revive its bid to build an ethnic Malay-centric government after the party on Friday said it would back party president Muhyiddin Yassin, instead of Mahathir, to become prime minister.

Muhyiddin is seen as a more acceptable candidate as he was willing to work with the United Malays National Organization, where several leaders including ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak are on trial for corruption charges.

UMNO and its allies including a fundamentalist Islamic party with strong rural support have thrown their support behind Muhyiddin, putting him as a frontrunner in the battle for power. Much depends on two parties on Borneo island, that holds a bloc of votes.

Mahathir repeated Saturday that he is against any form of cooperation with UMNO but that he can accept individuals who leave the party. He rejected claims that he supported Muhyiddin’s nomination.

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