PETALING JAYA - There were difficulties "from within" when Pakatan Harapan took over the government, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Some people within the coalition were being persuaded to cross over and ally themselves with Umno and PAS, the Prime Minister said in an interview with Mekong Review.
"There was a fear that our coalition was not going to respect the position of Islam as much as the previous government had.
"So, there was an idea that if the Muslims all came together - the new opposition were largely Muslim, with Umno and PAS - they could drag other Muslims (from our coalition), have the majority and form a Malay-Muslim government, but they were advised against that," he said.
Dr Mahathir said the people being approached were Malay-Muslims, though he declined to name them.
The talks and political manoeuvring were the reasons behind the delay in the announcement of the coalition's victory on May 9, he added.
"We knew we had won by 8.30pm, but we didn't get the official announcement until about 2am.
"We had lots of difficulties, including attempts from within to reject our success, but in the end better sense prevailed," he said.
When asked about how race and religion relate to politics in the country, Dr Mahathir said political parties should not be playing up the religious card.
"In Islam, you will find the Quran teaches Muslims to be friendly and reasonable and to uphold justice.
"So, what we tell them (the religious parties) is that we are upholding religion more than they are. They are following interpretations that are contrary to the teachings of Islam.
"For example, they want to implement hudud and we tell them the laws they want to implement are not the hudud of Islam but their hudud laws.
"PAS never did well in the past - and now it is not about Islam, it is about race," he added.
On a separate matter, Dr Mahathir said it was more important that ships passed through the South China Sea freely than to lay claims on the disputed area.
"The Chinese lay claim on the South China Sea by virtue of its name. But at the moment, ships can pass through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.
"The sea is the main communication line, so China wants to make sure the sea is free for its own trade to carry on.
"I don't think they want to stop other ships from passing through, and I think Malaysia can live with that," he said.
However, he said the purchase of Malaysian land by Chinese nationals should not be encouraged.
"The Chinese have so much money they could literally buy up the whole of Malaysia.
"If they did that we would become a province of China," he said.