KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia's ousted ex-prime minister Najib Razak was "completely destroyed" on the night he lost the general election and twice called his imprisoned rival Anwar Ibrahim for advice on what he should do Anwar on Thursday.
Najib received a shocking electoral loss last week that ended the dominance of the Barisan Nasional Coalition, which has been ruling Malaysia for more than six decades.
The defeat of BN in the May 9 polls was attributed to mounting anger over corruption and an unlikely alliance between 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad and his former rival Anwar, who had teamed to drive out the scandal-infested Najib.
Anwar, who was acquitted Wednesday of his five-year prison sentence for sodomy, said he received two phone calls from Najib.
"When he called the evening of the election, I advised him to take him in as a friend and move on," Anwar Reuters said in an interview at his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Anwar said he asked Najib to make a statement quickly instead of being late, and he was perceived as an attempt to devour the process.
However, Najib did not say anything, although Mahathir declared victory a few hours after counting the votes.
At a press conference the next day, Najib said that no party has a simple majority and that the constitutional monarch would decide who would form the government.
"He was just very evasive … he refused to give up early," Anwar said of his discussion on election night.
He said that Najib was thinking about what he could do and whom he could consult. But Anwar insisted that the ex-PM was not addressing him in a "serious way".
"Even if he had referred to it (an agreement) I would have simply ignored … I just listened to him," Anwar said when asked if Najib had offered him a deal to change his allegiance ,
"After the second call he was completely destroyed," he said.
Najib could not be reached immediately for a comment.
"In close competition between two coalitions, it is not uncommon for a leader of the loser team to try to lure members from the other side," said Adib Zalkapli, a Kuala Lumpur-based analyst at Risk Advisory Vriens & Partners.
Khairy Jamaluddin, the Youth and Sports Minister in Najib's government, visited Najib on election night at his home and said the PM had been "calm" and "ready" this week, but the people around him were "amazed" ,
Khairy was unable to comment on Thursday, with a spokesman for Khairy declining to comment on Anwar's description of what happened on Election Night.
Najib's coalition secured only 79 of Malaysia's 222 parliamentary seats while An alliance between the two could have secured Najib's return to power.
Last year, Najib visited Anwar in a hospital recovering from a shoulder operation, sparking rumors that The two leaders could sign a deal to join forces against Mahathir, though this was quickly dismissed by Anwar's team.
Mahathir, who was sworn in as leader last Thursday, obtained a royal pardon for Anwar and promised to step aside for his enemy, who had become General Militia.
The relationship between these two giants of Malaysian politics is a saga that spans three decades.
Anwar said it was accepted that he would become the next prime minister after Mahathir's resignation, but he wanted to ensure a smooth transition.
"Mahathir has been in power for a week, so talking about an immediate transition is not appropriate, just let him go," Anwar said. He gave no time frame for this step.
Anwar was Mahathir's deputy in the 1990s, but dropped out with his mentor during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-99.
He was eventually dismissed by the ruling party and formed the Reformasi movement that challenged Mahathir's government. Within a few weeks, he was arrested and jailed for contentious charges of sodomy and corruption.
After being released in 2004, Anwar was imprisoned a second time in 2015 for sodomy when Najib was in power.
Both times, he and his followers said the charges were politically motivated.
Mahathir was perfect as Prime Minister at the moment, as the new government is dismantling the outdated and corrupt system set up by the long-ruling coalition of the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), Anwar said.
UMNO's racial-based politics and patronage system has been criticized and blamed for the bloated civil service and weak institutions such as the judiciary.
"He probably seems to be the right man … I'm a bit more moderate and have a softer image," Anwar said.
"Because I've suffered, I always think that making a decision would hurt the sufferer, so I'm a little more considerate … and that may not be good in these times when we need to make sure that Elements of the old regime do not reappear. "
Anwar and his party had to face a protracted struggle for power through electoral systems and government institutions working for the ruling party.
He said the old regime had been dismantled, but the new government could not assume that it would maintain the level of support and euphoria last week.
"From my discussion with the Prime Minister (Mahathir) this morning, that seems to be the feeling … we will have to deliver," he said.
"I gave this message, we do not want UMNO 2.0."
Additional coverage by Tom Westbrook; Arrangement by Nick Macfie