Political analysts see political cunning in former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to meet Anwar Ibrahim yesterday and shake hands with the jailed opposition leader.
Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya and Denison Jayasooria agree that Mahathir is seeking to endear himself to opposition supporters because he sees it as necessary in his campaign to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Both told FMT they believed Mahathir was embarking on a new phase in his strategy.
“He wants to gain the confidence of Anwar’s fans,” Azman said.
“We know that he is not fully accepted by the opposition. There are certain groups in PKR that have not forgotten what he did to the opposition during his time as prime minister.
“He now wants to convince Anwar’s fans that the issues between him and the opposition leader are resolved.”
Azman added that the handshake was nothing less than an effort on Mahathir’s part to “clean up his image” with the opposition.
Jayasooria said Mahathir had lately made a “major strategic shift” in his campaign against Najib by trying to gain legitimacy as a fighter for democracy.
“He needs that legitimacy in order to oust Najib,” he said.
Jayasooria welcomed Mahathir’s move as beneficial for democracy. “It’s good for democracy and it brings possibilities of a more united opposition,” he said.
He said it appeared that Mahathir now knew that he had to do more than just attack Najib.
“I think he has finally realised that he has to be humble enough to work with Anwar in order to oust Najib. Sometimes, a crisis enables enemies to come together for a common good.”
Mahathir yesterday made an unscheduled visit to the High Court, where Anwar applied to challenge the enforcement of the National Security Council Act. The two briefly exchanged pleasantries in the witness room.