Anwar says 'shattered' Najib called him twice on election night

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim takes a phone call during during an interview with Reuters at his house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 17, 2018.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's ousted former premier Najib Razak was "totally shattered" the night he lost the general election and called his jailed rival Anwar Ibrahim twice for advice on what he should do, Anwar said on Thursday.

Najib was handed a shocking election loss last week which ended the dominance of the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled Malaysia for more than six decades.

BN's defeat in the May 9 polls was attributed to rising anger over corruption and an unlikely alliance struck between 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad and his former rival, Anwar, who got together to oust the scandal-tainted Najib.

Anwar, who was pardoned and released from his five-year jail term for sodomy on Wednesday, said he had received two calls from Najib.

Anwar a free man after royal pardon

  • Jailed Malaysian reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon on Wednesday and walked free from a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, capping dramatic changes in the Southeast Asian country since the government was ousted in an election upset last week.
  • In his first press conference since his release at his residence in Segambut on Wednesday (May 16), Anwar said that he was only back as a citizen.
  • "I'll be taking time off to give a series of talks in Harvard, Georgetown and a few Muslim countries," said Anwar.
  • "I've given my assurance to Mahathir and Azizah that I'm here as a concerned citizen, with complete support for them manage the affairs of the country," he said.
  • Anwar also said that as premier, Dr Mahathir had the prerogative to form the Cabinet, but added that the Prime Minister had given him assurance that he would consult party leaders before deciding on its composition.
  • Mr Anwar Ibrahim (centre) speaking to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the palace, where he has been granted an audience with the King at noon.
  • Police directing traffic as Mr Anwar's convoy leaves for the palace.
  • Anwar Ibrahim greeting his supporters after being released from the Cheras Hospital Rehabilitation in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, 2018.
  • A poster of Mr Anwar by one of his supporters outside the hospital.
  • Mr Anwar Ibrahim and wife Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail leaving Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Mr Anwar Ibrahim making his way home after his release from Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Anwar Ibrahim arrives at his house following his release from hospital
  • Mr Anwar Ibrahim arrives home after he was released from Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Journalists and supporters of jailed former opposition leader and current federal opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrive at his home after his release from the Cheras Hospital Rehabilitation in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, 2018.

"When he called on the night of the election, I advised him as a friend to concede and move on," Anwar told Reuters in an interview at his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar said he asked Najib to come out with a statement quickly rather than delay and be perceived as trying to scuttle the process.

Najib, however, said nothing despite Mahathir declaring victory a few hours after the counting of the votes began.

At a news conference the next day, Najib said no party had a simple majority and the constitutional monarch would decide who would form the government.

"He was just very evasive ... he refused to concede early," Anwar said about his discussion on election night.

Anwar Ibrahim during an interview with Reuters at his home on May 17.Photo: Reuters

He said Najib was thinking of what he could do and who he could consult. But Anwar insisted the former-PM did not approach him for a deal in any "serious manner".

"Even if he had referred to that (a deal) I would have just ignored ... I was just listening to him," Anwar said when asked if Najib had offered him a deal to shift allegiance.

"After the second call he was totally shattered," he said.

Najib could not immediately be reached for comment.

"In a close contest between two coalitions it is not unusual for a leader of the losing team to try to entice members from the other side," said Adib Zalkapli, a Kuala Lumpur-based analyst with risk consultancy Vriens & Partners.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the youth and sports minister in Najib's government, visited Najib at his house on election night and said this week the prime minister had been "calm" and "poised", but that the people around him were "stunned, shocked and sombre".

Khairy was not available for comment on Thursday. A spokesman for Khairy declined to comment on Anwar's description of events on election night.

Najib's coalition secured only 79 of Malaysia's 222 parliamentary seats while Anwar's People's Justice Party (PKR) won 50 seats. An alliance between the two could have secured Najib's return to power.

Last year, Najib visited Anwar at a hospital where he was recovering from a shoulder surgery. The meeting sparked rumours that the two leaders may strike up an agreement to join forces against Mahathir, although this was quickly dismissed by Anwar's team.

Mahathir, who was sworn in as leader last Thursday, secured a royal pardon for Anwar, and has promised to step aside for his friend-turned-foe-turned-ally to become prime minister.

The relationship between these two giants of Malaysian politics is a saga that has spanned three decades.

Anwar said it had been accepted that he would be the next prime minister after Mahathir steps down, but he wanted to ensure a smooth transition.

"Mahathir has been in power for just a week so it's not proper to talk about an immediate transition. So let him just continue," Anwar said. He did not give a time frame for this move.

Anwar was Mahathir's deputy in the 1990s, but fell out with his mentor during the 1997-99 Asian financial crisis.

He was eventually sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi (Reform) movement, challenging Mahathir's government. Within weeks, he was arrested and jailed on disputed charges of sodomy and corruption.

After being freed in 2004, Anwar was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2015, when Najib was in power.

Both times, he and his supporters said the charges were politically motivated.

Mahathir was perfect as prime minister right now as the new government goes about dismantling the obsolete and corrupt system put in place by the long-ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO)-led coalition, Anwar said.

UMNO's race-based politics and patronage system has been slammed by its critics and blamed for the bulging civil service and weak institutions like the judiciary.

"Probably he seems to be the right man...I am a bit more moderate and have a softer image," Anwar said.

"Because of how I suffered, I always think how any decision would cause sufferings to those affected. So I'm a bit more considerate...and that may not be good in these times when we have to make sure the elements of the old regime do not resurface." Anwar and his party has faced a protracted struggle to gain power due to electoral systems and government institutions working in favour of the ruling party.

He said the old regime had been dismantled, but the new government could not assume it would retain the level of support and euphoria seen in the last week.

"From my discussion with the PM (Mahathir) this morning, that seems to be the sentiment ... we will have to deliver," he said.

"I have given that message. We don't want UMNO 2.0.

Mahathir scores shocking win in Malaysian Election

  • Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has officially been sworn in as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister.
  • Dr Mahathir took his oath of office as Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at the Istana Negara at 9.57pm Thursday (May 10).
  • The 92-year-old was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
  • This means that Dr Mahathir will be the world's oldest prime minister and the first Malaysian to be premier twice.
  • At a press conference earlier, Dr Mahathir said he would appoint Dr Wan Azizah as deputy prime minister once he is sworn in.
  • Dr Mahathir received the mandate to form the government through Pakatan, which managed to wrest 113 out of 222 federal seats in GE14.
  • Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel on 10 May 2018.
  • Mahathir Mohamad holds up a document with the signatures of alliance party leaders naming him as the prime minister during a news conference following the general election in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.
  • Najib leaves after a news conference on May 10.
  • Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 May 2018.
  • Mahathir's stunning defeat of the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain six decades ago means that, at the age of 92, he will become the oldest elected leader in the world.
  • Official results showed that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had won 113 of parliament's 222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule.
  • Najib's ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), had 79. Pic: Barisan Nasional party members watch election results updates at the Barisan Nasional coalition headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.
  • Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), celebrate outside the hotel, where Mahathir Mohamad held news conference, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.
  • Mahathir told a news conference he expected to be sworn in as prime minister later on Thursday.
  • Few had expected Mahathir to prevail against a coalition that has long relied on the support of the country's ethnic-Malay majority.
  • Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they won the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let him become prime minister.
  • Ethnic-Malay Muslims have long tended to support BN for affirmative-action policies that give them government contracts, cheap housing and guaranteed university admissions.
  • Mahathir's alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, had hoped the veteran Malay leader would win over voters usually loyal to BN. That strategy appeared to have paid off.
  • Mahathir's opposition wrested control of key states Johor and Kedah, and reduced BN's grip in strongholds like Sarawak.
  • Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives at SK Titi Gajah in Alor Setar at 10.55am to cast his vote.
  • The Election Commission said voter turnout was at 55 percent out of the total 14,449,200 voters in GE14 as of 1pm on May 9.
  • Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keeping a positive outlook on voter turnout throughout the day.
  • By 5pm May 9, some 70 per cent of voters had cast their ballots for what has been dubbed "the mother of all elections". The latest polls show a neck-and-neck race to the finish for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH).
  • Voters still queuing up within the compounds of polling stations nationwide for GE14 were not allowed to vote after the 5pm cut-off time but any voter affected can file a petition to demand a re-election.
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib votes at a polling station during the 14th general elections in Pekan on May 9, 2018.
  • Malaysians went to the polls on May 9 in one of the country's closest ever elections which pits scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak against his one-time mentor, a 92-year-old former authoritarian leader.
  • The Barisan Nasional chairman arrived at his polling station Sekolah Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah at 9.20 am together with his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. Najib was all smiles when he was greeted by other voters who were present at the station.
  • 9.29am: PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail voted in SK Seri Penanti in Permatang Pauh. After casting her vote, she immediately left and returned to Selangor where she is contesting for Pandan parliamentary seat there.
  • The Barisan chief is in a four-cornered fight for the Pekan seat. (Pic) Barisan Nasional deputy chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis successfully cast their ballots at the Madrasah Manbail Ulum voting centre at Sungai Nipah Darat.
  • Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo cast their vote at SK Sulaiman in Bentong.
  • PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who is defending his Marang parliamentary seat, arrives at SK Rusila in Marang to cast his ballot.
  • EC staff making final preparations at a polling station at Stadium Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur.
  • An instruction notice for voters is seen at a voting center on the eve of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang on May 8, 2018.
  • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) offers special prayers a day before the 14th general election at a mosque in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, May 8, 2018.
  • Women vote during the general election in Alor Setar, Malaysia, May 9, 2018.
  • People boarding buses back to Malaysia. at Singapore's Golden Mile complex on May 8.
  • Supporters listen to a speech by former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad
  • This picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows Malaysians gathering at an election rally in Petaling Jaya to watch a telecast of 92-year-old former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad.
  • Voters queue up in the early morning to cast their ballots at a polling station during the 14th general election in Alor Setar on May 9, 2018.

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