July 25, 2017
Will Dr. M make ultimate U-turn if Harapan wins GE?
by Alyaa Azhar
Do you trust a political fox in the national hen house? Lest it be forgotten–Mahathir is an enigma with a Machiavellian streak. I do not expect that he will change his stripes. It is too late for that. Furthermore, the over-confidence shown by Pakatan Harapan politicians and analysts who support them is worrying since they underestimate the advantages of incumbency Najib possesses. Who will conduct elections if there are indications that one might lose. And politically astute Najib, who may be corrupt and incompetent, is not likely to commit a political hara kiri by doing so. It would be more reasonable to assume that he would create the pretext for emergency rule and govern the country Erdogan (Turkey) style. –Din Merican
Many breathed a sigh of relief after Pakatan Harapan finally came out with its line-up but there are those, especially among hardcore supporters of the Reformasi movement, who are slightly uneasy with seeing former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sitting as chairperson of the coalition.
Their concerns are understandable. After all, this was the man responsible for throwing PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim behind bars in the first place, they contend.
Even those who do not really follow politics know that it was Mahathir’s sacking of Anwar as Deputy Prime Minister that gave birth to the Reformasi movement in 1998.
So can he be trusted to ensure that Anwar would indeed become the country’s eighth Prime Minister should Harapan emerge as the victor in the 14th general election?
And despite Mahathir’s apparent dislike of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, evident through his non-stop criticisms hurled at the latter and even his exit from UMNO a third time (Mahathir was first sacked from the party by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1969), what would happen if UMNO were to decide to abandon Najib?
Would Mahathir leave Harapan and return to UMNO again, the party he had led for more than 20 years?
After all, it would not be the first time he would re-enter the country’s largest political party. Or would Mahathir, like two of his predecessors (Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn), remain outside UMNO until his very last breath?
Crossed red line
Many still believe this bull from Najib Razak
Providing his take on this, PKR Secretary-General Saifuddin Nasution Ismail believes that Mahathir has long crossed the “red line” when it comes to UMNO.
“The more I engage with him (Mahathir), I can only conclude that there is no turning back for him. Even though the source of anger could be Najib alone, but by now I think he realised that the whole system is corrupt.I have no doubt to dispute his sincerity, commitment and dedication to work together with the opposition,” said Saifuddin to Malaysiakini.
Although there is that possibility of Mahathir betraying Harapan if UMNO were to reject Najib, political analyst Khoo Kay Peng pointed out that the tables would turn if Harapan were to win in the general election.
“UMNO members will flock to Bersatu,” he said. Khoo also believes that Mahathir might be open to cooperating with UMNO as he “still has a strong brand value for Malays”.
Ibrahim Suffian says, “the issue of Mahathir going to UMNO would be moot”. After all, the former Prime Minister fathered UMNO Baru, which Najib Razak inherited.
Concurring that there will be no chance of Mahathir returning to UMNO as long as Najib remains as Prime Minister, Merdeka Centre programme Director Ibrahim Suffian also believes that the “entire political equation” will change should Harapan were to wrest Putrajaya from Barisan Nasional. “The issue of Mahathir going to UMNO would be moot,” he said.
And Harapan leaders, he added, do not really have a choice in the matter as they have decided to have Mahathir as a leader and must therefore only trust him.
“For those folks who have doubts about Mahathir, they have to make some compromises. They can’t have the cake and eat it, too.” The possibility of Mahathir betraying Harapan may be low but Khoo believes Harapan has not made enough preparation to face the possibility of a betrayal by Mahathir.
“They can’t simply because they don’t have time, choice and resources to focus on something else.But what Harapan should do is at least identify a clear line of leadership succession,” he said.
“Leaders who continue to make wrong decisions must be accountable and make way (for others).”
Harapan may be a little too relaxed in the matter. But for Saifuddin, the only plan that matters right now is none other than to defeat UMNO and BN. “In terms of time frame, we only have less than a year, probably less than six months from now.
No question of betrayal
Saifuddin Nasution Ismail–“There is no question of betrayal because we formed a partnership to become the next government.”
“We only have one plan and that plan is crystal clear, which is to take over the government.” Saifuddin also believes that concerns of a betrayal by Mahathir “do not arise at all. There is no question of betrayal because we formed a partnership to become the next government.”
For his coalition partner Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) Deputy President Salahuddin Ayub, now is the time for Harapan partners to put all their suspicions of Mahathir aside. “What’s more important is to build up the confidence to the public. We don’t have time to dig up all the sins Mahathir did during his 22 years (as Prime Minister),” he said.
And there would be no point in doing so, he added, citing his past experience in PAS when Anwar was sacked as the country’s number two leader.
“We accepted Anwar and his party at the time. It would not bring any benefit if my friends in PAS then and I, were suspicious of Anwar. It’s not our business to become the judge in whatever Mahathir did in the past. Amanah is not a court of law,” he added.
But shouldn’t Harapan at least have a contingency plan on the possibility of Mahathir betraying Harapan? Salahuddin is of the opinion that it would not be good for Harapan to have such a mindset and pointed out that the agreement signed between Harapan and Bersatu when the latter joined the coalition last year was enough to bind them.
Admitting that anything can happen in politics, Salahuddin, however, cited his observations of Mahathir, having engaged closely with the 92-year-old in the past two years.
“What I can say about Mahathir is his consistency. From day one of the Citizens’ Declaration, he never went back on his word. If I think he was the kind of person who flip-flops on his statement, he would not be the type of leader that I would want, too. He is very firm on his stand to face Najib, the 1MDB issue and to build this country.”
Admitting that he was initially quite guarded when it came to Mahathir as he thought that the latter only wanted to replace Najib and would ultimately return to Umno, Salahuddin now believes that Mahathir has “served his purpose”. He also allayed fears that Mahathir had been resorting to his “dictatorship style” in meetings.
A mellowed Mahathir
“This is from the bottom of my heart – in many meetings, we could debate with him, we could argue with him (and even) oppose him. Sometimes there are among us who are particularly vocal during meetings but he didn’t mind, he could accept it. Sometimes he even changed his original idea to follow the voice of the majority. If Mahathir behaved like a dictator in the meetings, I don’t think we would have remained with him for long.”
Like Salahuddin, having been in the opposition for a considerable amount of time, Saifuddin admitted that his previous topic in political ceramahs was all about attacking the Mahathir administration.
“But finally I realised we are all human. To move on, we have to learn to forgive and forget. That’s how I have positioned myself.”
So has all been forgiven just because Mahathir is now the federal government’s prime critic? That may not be the case but Saifuddin argued that allowing Najib and UMNO to continue to lead Malaysia would “only be a disaster”.
“Once it reaches the point of no return, then everything is too late. So before we reach that point, with whatever forces that we have, no matter the differences, I think we need to emphasise more on the things that can make us be united.”