Bangkok, Aug (efe-epa).- Malaysia’s 95-year-old veteran politician and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday announced that he had founded a new “independent” political party, yet to be given a name, months after resigning as the country’s leader in February due to an internal crisis in his former party.
“We are aware that Malaysia already has so many political parties, especially for the Malays. It is not our intention to increase the number, but we are facing extraordinary issues,” Mahathir said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, state news agency Bernama reported.
Mahathir, who is currently a lawmaker from the Langkawi region in western Malaysia, said that the new party would have the same agenda of fighting against corruption and kleptocracy that was put forward by the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu), which he helped established in 2016 and led to victory in national elections two years later.
The nonagenarian politician decided to return to the political arena as the leader of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) with the common objective of ousting then prime minister Najib Razak, implicated in multiple corruption charges of which he was finally convicted on Jul. 28 and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
For the 2018 polls, Mahathir – who had already led the country between 1981 and 2003 – joined hands with Anwar Ibrahim, a former political ally who fell into disgrace in 1999 and was jailed for five years on corruption and sodomy charges, although rights groups had alleged that the cases were politically motivated.
The alliance led by the veteran politician registered a surprise victory in the May 2018 elections, winning 113 out of the total 222 seats of the parliament and becoming the first coalition to defeat the United Malays National Organisation party, which had been in power continuously since the country’s independence in 1957.
Mahathir – who had himself been a part of UMNO in his early career – insisted on Friday that his new party would be independent of both the major political coalitions in the country.
After assuming office, the leader had ordered a fresh investigation against Najib for allegedly diverting millions of dollars to his personal accounts from the state investment fund 1MDB.
He also ensured the release of Anwar, who subsequently won a seat in the parliament.
However, the veteran had repeatedly postponed handing over the reigns of the government to Anwar as part of an pre-electoral agreement of the alliance.
In February, the coalition collapsed when Bersatu suddenly announced its exit and after a series of internal developments in the party Muhyiddin Yassin – then serving as the minister of home affairs – became the prime minister with the help of UMNO. EFE-EPA