Riding high on Pejuang’s registration, polarising nonagenarian unlikely to tap out of political race any time soon
LANGKAWI – It has been 40 years since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad first led the country as prime minister but time has not dulled his political prowess as he remains a wily politician.
Political scientist, Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia, said the Langkawi MP should not be underestimated despite being 96 years old.
There has been speculation whether Dr Mahathir will focus on winning Langkawi again or set his sights on another constituency in the next national polls.
“Underestimate him at your own peril as he has continued to defy the odds throughout his political career that has spanned more than 70 years.
“While his style might be cutting but at the same time, he seems to resonate with certain segments of the community.”
Dr Mahathir debuted in 1964 as Kota Setar Selatan (Alor Star) MP, and while he did not win every election, he held many cabinet portfolios and was even sworn in as prime minister for the second time under the Pakatan Harapan banner in May 2018.
Despite being a polarising figure, Sivamurugan said Malaysia has yet to see another leader who has managed to emulate Dr Mahathir’s maverick style, which was evident during his first tenure as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
He added that it could possibly be due to the country’s rapid development.
“His legacy might be cemented in skyscrapers and other mega infrastructure, but the political upheavals that followed him dented his public image.
“Some say he has definitely overstayed, but politicians of today continue to court his support.
“I’m among many who are curious to study his next move,” Sivamurugan said after Dr Mahathir’s fourth political party, Pejuang, finally received the nod from the Registrar of Societies (RoS).
Some business leaders in Langkawi are now convinced that Dr Mahathir will defend his parliamentary seat if there is a snap election in 12 months.
Many took notice of his frequent visits despite the pandemic and felt that the Langkawi MP is unlikely to retire any time soon.
Meanwhile, Kedah assembly Speaker Datuk Juhari Bulat said Dr Mahathir has contributed immensely to the island resort so if he wants to contest, it would be a friendly ground.
“Due to the fluid political conditions, I can only say if there is no compromise. Voters have to decide who is the most qualified based on the candidate’s contributions and sacrifices to the electorate.”
Juhari, who is the Kedah Bersatu leader and a close acquaintance of Dr Mahathir, said if contests occur here between the likes of Umno, Bersatu, Pejuang and PAS, it should be cordial and in the spirit of serving the community.
Meanwhile, Klang MP Charles Santiago said Dr Mahathir is outdated in his thinking as the country is now in the 21st century.
“Our needs have differed from the last century.”
A former Umno assemblyman who wants to remain anonymous said it would be dangerous to underestimate Dr Mahathir, as he has been synonymous with the country for the past four decades but there is a need for a new generation to lead Malaysia.
“It is time to move on. Let the youngsters have a shot at serving Langkawi.
“Dr Mahathir is like a father. When he reaches a certain age, surely his children would want him to retire and enjoy the fruits of his labour. So, it is best for him to step aside.”
He did not always have a smooth ride when he was in Umno. The party was deregistered in 1987 after narrowly fending off the leadership challenge mooted by then Umno vice-president Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Dr Mahathir then formed Umno Baru before he exited the party after falling out with then president Datuk Seri Najib Razak in 2016.
He was then the co-founder of Bersatu but that too ended abruptly when he quit after the party insisted on withdrawing from the then Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition in February last year.
He has since formed Pejuang, which has six MPs he brought with him from Bersatu, including his son and Jerlun MP Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.
By : Ian McIntyre – THE VIBES