Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to supporters during a 2016 rally calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks to supporters during a 2016 rally calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Malaysian party puts up former PM aged 92

MALAYSIA's Opposition has named former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, as its candidate for PM at the next general election.

The de facto leader of the Opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, is in jail for sodomy.

Ironically, Dr Mahathir is the man who sacked and then detained Mr Anwar under the controversial Internal Security Act.

But the authoritarian Dr Mahathir who ran the country for two decades is seen as the biggest threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak who is embroiled in a corruption scandal and must call an election by August.

The displeasure with Mr Najib has brought bitter rivals together - the more liberal Mr Anwar and the authoritarian Dr Mahathir.

If the Opposition wins, it will aim for a royal pardon for the popular Mr Anwar so he can be eligible to be PM.

Dr Mahathir's record of restricting civil liberties and his antagonism towards the West made for difficult relationships with the US, UK and long-time ally Australia, among others.

Malaysia had a rapid modernisation and an economic boom during his 22 years as PM from 1981-2003, but he was criticised for weakening the independence of the legal system and for detaining activists and political opponents such as his then-deputy Mr Anwar.

Mr Anwar was a protege of Dr Mahathir, and the rising star of Malaysian politics and his success and the direction he took led to a falling out in the late 1990s.

He was sacked as deputy PM then jailed on charges of sodomy and graft. He denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.

After serving his time, Mr Anwar led an opposition alliance to stunning electoral gains in 2013.

Mr Najib's coalition lost the popular vote in that election, but won a majority of the seats in parliament.

Again in 2013, Mr Anwar was convicted and jailed for sodomy, a charge he says is an attempt to end his career.

The corruption scandal Mr Najib is embroiled in involves a state fund, 1MDB. The US Justice Department has alleged in civil lawsuits that about $4.5 billion was misappropriated. Mr Najib has denied the allegations.



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