Malaysia        -        Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday that he will form a new nonpartisan government if he is elected to return as Malaysia’s prime minister, as the king completed two days of consultations with lawmakers to resolve a political vacuum caused by the abrupt collapse of Mahathir’s ruling coalition.

Breaking his silence two days after his shocking resignation, Mahathir confirmed that his Bersatu party ditched the alliance Monday in a bid to form a new government with the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, the party of disgraced ex-leader NajibRazak, who is on trial for corruption, and a fundamentalist Islamic party. The move had thwarted a pre-election agreement by Mahathir to hand over power to his named successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir said he had quit to show he wasn’t power crazy and because he cannot work with the corrupt-tainted UMNO, which he had ousted in 2018 elections. He made no mention of Anwar in his televised speech, but reiterated that the lower house of Parliament should be the one to pick the prime minister. “If I really still have support, I will return. If not, I will accept whoever’s chosen,” said Mahathir, the world’s oldest leader at 94.

Anwar’s camp, as well as UMNO and the Islamic party, have rejected Mahathir’s proposed nonpartisan government.

“I am not aiming to be popular,” Mahathir said. “I just want to do what is best for the country. ... I believe, rightly or wrongly, politics and political parties must be set aside for now. If allowed, I will form an administration that does not side with any party. Only national interest will be prioritized.”

The departure of 37 lawmakers, including 11 from Anwar’s party, deprives the governing Alliance of Hope of majority rule and sparked a crisis less than two years after its election victory ousted a corrupt-tainted coalition that had ruled for 61 years. The king dissolved the Cabinet but reappointed Mahathir as interim leader.

Mahathir spoke as the king finished consulting all 222 lawmakers to determine who they support as prime minister or if they want fresh elections. The king’s role is largely ceremonial in Malaysia, but he appoints the person with majority support in Parliament as prime minister.

Shortly after Mahathir’s speech, Anwar said lawmakers from the three remaining parties in his alliance had nominated him as prime minister during their meeting with the king — marking a U-turn from an earlier stand to support Mahathir as their leader.

Anwar said the change was due to Mahathir rejecting their offer to restore their former government. The alliance also said the new plan would only create a “Mahathir government” that goes against voters’ mandate. Anwar said they will leave it to the king to decide and will accept the outcome. The palace didn’t say when the king will reveal his findings.