The last stand of Mahathir Mohamad

August 28, 2018

The last stand of Mahathir Mohamad


Image result for Will Mahathir change his politics?

Is it far-fetched to think that the wisdom which comes with age came to Mahathir as an epiphany, writes Khoo Boo Teik.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim had their historic meeting on 5 September 2016.

Since then, much has been written on their reconciliation, Pakatan Harapan’s formation, and Mahathir’s nomination as Prime Minister if the opposition wins the coming general election.

About Mahathir’s political return, we now know many things except the puzzle that is the man himself, around whom an amazing turn of events revolves.

We can tackle the puzzle by raising two questions: what is the underlying motif of his intervention? What are his deep personal motivations for fighting Najib Abdul Razak and the Umno-BN regime?

Looking back, it seems surreal that all the opposition’s roads lead to Mahathir.

“Mahathir’s aura,” Mazlan Aliman of Anak Felda claimed, reassured Felda settlers that a Pakatan government would restore Felda and resolve the settlers’ financial burdens. Indeed, one Pakatan slogan for Felda areas is “Selamatkan Felda, Selamatkan Malaysia” (Save Felda, Save Malaysia).

Amanah leaders, such as Mohamad Sabu and Salahuddin Ayub, are confident that Pakatan Harapan’s nomination of Mahathir as ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ shattered UMNO’s propaganda that an UMNO defeat would mean “Chinese DAP domination”.

Mahathir has brought many advantages to the Harapan side. But his unsuspected value lies in his persona of a saviour. Historical circumstances and his exertions conferred that upon him.

The challenge

He was involved in the anti-Malayan Union movement that Malays regarded as the definitive event in saving Tanah Melayu and the special position of the Malays from colonial perfidy and immigrant domination.

Mahathir has brought many advantages to the Harapan side. But his unsuspected value lies in his persona of a saviour. Historical circumstances and his exertions conferred that upon him.

The challenge

He was involved in the anti-Malayan Union movement that Malays regarded as the definitive event in saving Tanah Melayu and the special position of the Malays from colonial perfidy and immigrant domination.

As a young doctor, he built up a good reputation for treating the sick, an esteemed way of saving lives. As was “Dr UMNO”, he was an ideologue for the mission of saving the ‘Malay race’ from poverty and economic backwardness.

Abdul Razak Hussein co-opted Mahathir for his project to recover UMNO’s pre-eminence that was battered in the May 1969 elections. In 1988, Mahathir ‘saved’ the deregistered UMNO by forming UMNO Baru.

He risked his own political survival to rescue the national economy in two crises (with the help of Daim Zainuddin). In 1986 he “held the New Economic Policy in abeyance”, one reason for Team B’s challenge to his leadership of UMNO. In 1998 he imposed capital controls against economic orthodoxy and international condemnation.

In Menghadapi Cabaran (The Challenge), a book he wrote when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, he endlessly lectured the Malays on their ‘unworthy values’, their tendency towards religious obscurantism, and their indifference to new forms of colonial subjection. It was tiresome to them but Mahathir meant to save the Malays from themselves!

One begins to see how a man with this background offers himself as a rallying point to rescue the economy from bankruptcy, the people from suffering and the nation from continued shame.

When Mahathir began talking to PKR leaders, Tian Chua said simply to me, “Ultimately Mahathir’s a nationalist.” The opposition leaders made a tacit bow before his saviour’s persona when they allied with him to fight Najib and UMNO-BN.

The ruling regime’s spokespeople mocked at Mahathir. They pronounced him too old and infirm. They chided him for not relaxing with his grandchildren. Such insensitivity only raised the sincerity and value of Mahathir’s sacrifice in the public eye.

Wisdom and epiphany

Mahathir is no more immune to hubris than other ‘patriarchs’ who cannot distinguish between their lives and those of their nations.

Mahathir did not act from political motives alone. He was probably driven by deep personal motivations between the 2013 general election and the exposé of the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

He was contemptuous of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and scarcely believed that Najib would lead UMNO-BN to a worse performance in 2013. For the next two years, Mahathir was preoccupied with UMNO’s weaknesses.

Dreading the thought of Anwar’s eventual triumph, he went to the ridiculous extent of patronising so-called ‘Malay-first’ bodies like Ibrahim Ali’s Perkasa. On hindsight, Mahathir pulled himself back when the 1MDB story broke across the world.

With his intelligence in different senses of the word, Mahathir grasped the reality of the Najib Razak-1MDB entanglement. He foresaw the destruction of all that he had worked for his entire life.

Image result for Khoo Boo Teik The Paradoxes of Mahathirism

Dr. Khoo Boo Teik’s Book The Paradoxes of Mahathirism is worth a re-read. Malaysians have put a lot of faith in Dr. Mahathir Mohamad by voting him to power in May 9, 2018 General Election. You are right to get rid on Najib Razak.

His 22-year premiership was imperfect but it brought successes that he valued: Malay progress, economic transformation, political stability, and, dearest to him, national dignity. We were admired abroad as an ‘Asian tiger’ before, he nostalgically told his audiences.

He found Najib’s record appalling: setbacks for Malay society and business, economic stagnation, social divisiveness and globally exposed national shame. If we are asked today where we come from, we lie that “We’re from Brunei,” he sorely joked with his audiences,

Mahathir claimed that Najib rejected advice on 1MDB and other issues. “I spoke to Najib because many people asked me to do something”, said Mahathir, “but Najib bragged that he could buy support because ‘cash is king’.”

Mahathir claimed Abdul Razak for his “idol” because of the latter’s contribution to rural development. But Razak’s son, Najib, only looked after himself, his wife, their children and their cronies. He showed not a drip of national interest, a prime minister’s ultimate sin in the eye of the ultimate nationalist.

Filicidal wrath

Is it far-fetched to think that the wisdom which comes with age came to Mahathir as an epiphany? In a flash, he saw the double injustice of his treatment of two protégés who looked to him as their political father.

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On one of them, Anwar, he had visited filicidal wrath. He had elevated the other, Najib, to power. The one stood for reformasi, the other was kleptocracy itself.

The rest is not hard to grasp. It was not too late for Mahathir to atone for both dreadful errors but, past 90, he had to hurry.

He publicly humbled himself to who in power made it a point not to admit a mistake. Mahathir flayed himself for misjudging Najib: “He was not even a bit like his father.”

And so, Mahathir reconciled with Anwar, apologised to him and his family for their suffering, and declared himself indebted to Anwar for accepting his leadership of Harapan.

In the ways he knew best, which he knew better than anyone else, Mahathir set out to re-enact his previous ‘destroy-and-promote’ drama. This time he would reverse the characters: he would depose Najib and he would resurrect Anwar.

From Mahathir’s lenses (without belittling Harapan negotiations), that must be the meaning of the Mahathir-Wan Azizah-Anwar sequence for the post of Prime Minister.

Even Mahathir cannot unilaterally determine how his new drama will end. The general election will decide that. But as always when he set his mind on a project, he put his (somewhat ailing) heart and (probably pained) soul into leading Harapan’s charge against Najib and UMNO-BN.

Yet all this might have lifted a big load off his conscience, for he is unusually light-hearted at many ceramah.

A Harapan victory will be his finest hour. He can clear up many problems and allow Wan Azizah and Anwar to succeed him. He will retire after that, forever remembered for the truly noble legacy of delivering the nation from kleptocracy at his last stand. It is a strange scenario to contemplate.

Mahathir is no more immune to hubris than other ‘patriarchs’ who cannot distinguish between their lives and those of their nations.

But if he succeeds, we will understand why that sharp and irreverent blogger, SakmongkolAK47, was awed into calling Mahathir “The man who can walk on water”.

This article first appeared in Malaysiakini.

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull

May 5, 2018

GE-14: 4 days to go to Polling Day, May 9, 2018. Vote Pakatan Harapan and resoundly reject corrupt Najib Razak and his UMNO-BN

Arul Kandak Kandangsamy and his 1MDB Bull

by P.


QUESTION TIME | 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy has launched a vitriolic, personal, and unwarranted attack against me which, of course, has no substance but let me deal with the most preposterous of his claims first – the so-called achievements he has made at 1MDB.

I have reproduced in full the “achievements” he claims since 2015 when he joined 1MDB in italics followed by my comments in each case:

1. Transparency: the company has become much more open, transparent and accessible, both to the media and to the public.

I wanted to roll around in laughter at this. Truth is, not one 1MDB annual report has been released since he came on board. Instead during his time, the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB was made secret under the Official Secrets Act, probably on his advice. He never told the government to make the report public.

These two documents are all that is needed to condemn or exonerate 1MDB.

2. Cooperation: full assistance and cooperation have been provided to investigators from Bank Negara, the National Audit Department, the Public Accounts Committee and the Royal Malaysian Police.

Did you have a choice, Arul? Are you not supposed to help investigations by the relevant authorities?  Would you not be contravening the law if you hid some things? So for you, abiding by the law is an achievement?

3. Massive debt reduction: 1MDB debts have been massively reduced from RM50 billion to RM31 billion.

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I already explained this in the last article I wrote. You did this by selling the power assets, extinguishing the bank loans. The sale simultaneously removes the loans from the books of the power companies. That’s nothing.

4. No short-term loans: all short-term loans and bank debt have been fully repaid with RM43 billion of long-term assets now fully backing RM31 billion of long-term debt.

The excess of assets over liabilities is simply because of the revaluation of land obtained cheaply from the government in the first place for both TRX as well as Bandar Tun Razak, not because you did anything, Arul.

However, it has been widely reported that the auditor-general said that US$7 billion of 1MDB assets could not be accounted for or verified – almost RM30 billion gone missing, evaporated into thin air. Where is the money Arul, you have not told us yet.

5. TRX a success: the Exchange 106 Tower in TRX will be the tallest tower in Malaysia upon completion in 2018. International investors such as HSBC and Prudential have collectively committed billions of ringgit to their headquarters in TRX. Lendlease, one of the most well-respected global property developers is in a joint venture with TRX to develop 17 acres of land.


TRX was a ruse for 1MDB to borrow money and then have it allegedly stolen by the kleptocrats. There is no evidence to show that any money borrowed went to TRX – TRX does not need RM30 billion for development – all it needs to do is to sell the land for others to develop.

6. 30,000 high-income jobs will be generated in TRX, upon completion, with RM3 billion being spent on infrastructure in and around TRX.

This is, again, a lie. If you have a building, people will work in it especially if you force them to move here, but that does not mean you created those high-paying jobs. Instead, by building so much of commercial space – too much – you will create excess and cause a glut in office supply. Go read the Bank Negara report on that, Arul.

7. Bandar Malaysia relocation completed: practically all of the eight new and upgraded bases for the air force and police with 1MDB as the developer and LTAT as the contractor are now completed thereby paving the way for the development of Bandar Malaysia.

Again, your bond money did not go into this project – it allegedly went into the pockets of your benefactors. All these could have been done without 1MDB and at much lower cost.

8. 200,000 high-income jobs will be generated in Bandar Malaysia, which will be a premier transport-oriented development and will house the terminus of the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail link.

Again, this is a lie. High-income jobs are not being created. What happens is high-income earners will shift and work in this area, which is not the same thing. And you don’t need to lose RM40 billion in the process.

Want to know how to make RM90 billion from Bandar Malaysia? Read this article I wrote.

A dishonourable career

Now that the substance of this debate is over, we know that Arul, despite what he said, did not stick to the facts. Let’s move on to the vitriol and the personal attacks.

When I set up KiniBiz together with Malaysiakini in 2013, I was already 60 years old, and had been managing editor at The Star and group executive editor at The Edge. I had no desire to go any further than that in either organisation. Earlier I held other editor jobs and was head of equity research at local and foreign brokerages.

I lost money at KiniBiz, Arul, but I made no secret of the fact that KiniBiz was shut down – we announced it on the website. But it was not your money I lost or the country’s, and I am not defending someone else’s alleged robbery at 1MDB and thereby becoming complicit in that act the way you are.

I am proud that my team and I tried to do something about good business journalism in Malaysia, although we could not, at the time, make it financially viable for various reasons. We were the ones who broke the 1MDB story in March 2013 as you very well know. We helped uncover this story which you are so desperately trying to bury – and we won’t let you do that.

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This time, I am not going to mince my words about this excuse of a man who not only lacks, sorry, is devoid of, not only integrity and morality but intelligence. People tell me he is smart and a great debater but all I have seen demonstrated repeatedly is the stupidity and banality of the desperate, trying to cover up with words his lack of achievement.

He could have made an honourable career in the financial industry but was duped and drawn in as the CEO of 1MDB to do his master’s bidding of engaging in systematic deception to deny the biggest kleptocracy the earth has ever known. No amount of money is worth that, Arul.

While Jho Low was until recently sailing around the world in a billion-ringgit yacht, enjoying the spoils of the 1MDB money, this man sits here and blithely says 1MDB did not lose any money. What a clown!

And if Pakatan Harapan wins this election, you will see this man flee from this country with his tail between his legs. He will not have the balls to stay and face the music. Which is why he is campaigning so hard for his political masters for it is also his own future that he is fighting for.


For us Malaysians, we will say good riddance and chalk up one more reason we should vote against this government which continues to allegedly steal from its people and appoints ball-carriers to important positions in government-linked companies, which is a sure way to ensure they fail.

Image result for 1MDB Power Assets

And if BN wins, you still lose Arul, because you lent your name to the biggest kleptocracy in the world and your support to an immoral, incompetent and corrupt regime. Your name will go down in the halls of shame but perhaps you don’t care about that, do you?

P GUNASEGARAM says the country is in danger when alleged thieves and their co-conspirators flaunt themselves in the open instead of being brought to account and locked up. E-mail:

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

GE-14: Dr. Mahathir’s Final Battle

April 27, 2018

GE-14: Dr. Mahathir’s Final Battle

by Allen Lopez

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“A man of sturdy conviction, the former Prime Minister is remarkably intelligent and possessed of a tireless work ethic. He is by all accounts God-fearing, with a personal morality untainted by even a hint of scandal. Perhaps, most significantly, he is a true patriot”.–Allen Lopez

Now, with supreme irony, the man most responsible for the national disrepair is the only one capable of fixing it, writes Allen Lopez in a personal rumination on the coming polls.

For all the benefits that the 22-year Mahathir era brought, there was a less savoury underbelly.

For a good part of his tenure, Mahathir’s governance was characterised by autocracy and a concentration of power at the top which presaged a dim political future. Mahathirism begot the current diseased state of the body politic.

Now, with supreme irony, the man most responsible for this disrepair is the only one capable of fixing it. Mahathir, on the threshold of turning 93, has taken to the task with grit and gusto. It is his last battle for the nation.

I harbour no intrinsic antipathy toward the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Rather, my partiality rests on a couple of factors: a thriving democracy depends on the existence of a viable alternative to the incumbent in office, and power vested in one party (or worse, one person) for too long will corrupt.

Sixty years of BN rule has been much too long. The BN ethic over the course of two generations has steadily putrefied and is now toxic. BN today is as far removed from the Alliance/BN of the Tunku Abdul Rahman-to-Hussein Onn era as night is from day. It is a caricature of the party it once was.

Slide into slime – Mahathir’s mixed legacy

To say that Mahathir was a strong leader would be an understatement. He has an unquestioning belief in his convictions. And, undeniably, there is much to be admired in him.

A man of sturdy conviction, the former Prime Minister is remarkably intelligent and possessed of a tireless work ethic. He is by all accounts God-fearing, with a personal morality untainted by even a hint of scandal. Perhaps, most significantly, he is a true patriot.

Lest one thinks of him as sainted, he is also human with human failings. The man’s virtues also spawned his weaknesses. In power, he was impatient, even intolerant, with those holding a different world-view.

So focused was Mahathir on achieving his laudable Vision 2020 that he condoned much that was wrong to attain its objectives. Under him, corruption and cronyism thrived. An avid horseman, he could ride roughshod over obstacles in his path, even if a more circumspect approach was called for.

This wreaked much damage: institutions that ensure a vibrant democracy were compromised. There was also an over-accumulation of power at the top during his time, perhaps the most regrettable being the prime minister’s absorption of the finance portfolio – which ousted a vital check and balance in fiscal management.

This was tolerable as long as Mahathir held the reins; there was comfort in the knowledge that he would not allow things to get too awry. The basic decency of the man could be relied on to not harm the country – certainly not for any personal financial gain.

But there is no denying that his failings in power set the stage for a steady crumbling of accountability and transparency, such that in the hands of a less scrupulous and morally weak leader, the scope for mischief was almost boundless.

Mahathir was anything but universally liked after he stepped down. Many were waiting for his comeuppance: there was the opposition that he had often cruelly berated when in power; the Anwar diehards who never forgave him for persecuting and jailing their iconic hero; and a swath of the general populace who believed he had, perhaps through benign neglect, done near-mortal damage to the pillars of a well-functioning democracy, in particular the civil service, agencies combating corruption, the Police and even the Judiciary.

These detractors helplessly saw what was happening to the country – and put the blame squarely at Mahathir’s doorstep.

Succession vacuum

Mahathir was astonishingly bad at picking a successor. Musa Hitam, Ghafar Baba and Anwar Ibrahim were sacked, replaced, and disgraced and jailed, respectively.

Another would-be successor, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, proved no match for the master tactician and was despatched to the periphery after failed challenges first from within UMNO and then in general elections.

Mahathir finally settled on a safe pair of hands in Abdullah Badawi. But it didn’t take long for Mahathir to rail against Badawi, whose style seemed the antithesis of his. Where Mahathir was ever the man in a hurry, Abdullah was very laid back. Where Mahathir was charismatic and passionate, his successor seemed a throwback to a kinder, gentler Hussein Onn era.

Mahathir’s patience ran out when Abdullah had the temerity to cancel his unfinished pet project: the controversial “crooked bridge” project over the Johor Straits. Abdullah was duly ushered into a cosy retirement.

Najib seemed the man to not just fulfil Mahathir’s Vision 2020, but even take it to the next level. He was youngish, cultivated and well-spoken, and with a reasonable intellect. He would lead Malaysia into the ranks of developed nations. With his pedigree, he was unlikely to be tempted by the lure of lucre and would surely not yield to the excesses of power.

Mahathir’s faith may have been skewed by the debt of gratitude he felt he owed Najib’s father, Abdul Razak Hussein, the country’s respected second Prime Minister, who was Mahathir’s mentor. Perhaps it was also buttressed by a belief that the acorn does not fall far from the tree.

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But Mahathir was soon badly let down. His faith in Najib was severely rattled when news broke of the billions of ringgit lost in the 1MDB fiasco. It was like a thunderbolt for Mahathir. How could his favoured successor act with such blatant disregard for good governance? The amounts involved were staggering and the opacity of the goings-on went against everything Mahathir stood for. The explanations proffered for the humongous outlays from state coffers didn’t hold up.

And then the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back: the US$681m deposited into Najib’s bank account. The related US Department of Justice report on the colossal scale of the money laundering and embezzlement from 1MDB, with a key player identified as MO1 (subsequently confirmed by a cabinet minister to be Najib), removed any doubt that Najib should be held to account.

Mahathir couldn’t stand idly by. He had anointed Najib as a worthy successor. He felt responsible, and he had to set things right.

Unlikely unifier

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Mahathir–Anwar Partnership rattles Najib Razak but brings fresh hope for Malaysians

Mahathir came out with all guns blazing. He minced no words telling it as he saw it – giving voice to what many were thinking, but feared to speak out for fear of the backlash. Mahathir-haters saw a whole new side to the man and could only admire his guts and grit, especially while erstwhile leading lights in UMNO had metamorphosed into ostriches.

Mahathir’s strident and fearless stand drew open admiration, even from past political foes.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP), so impugned by Mahathir in the past as a Chinese chauvinist, even racist, party,  saw in the latter-day Mahathir someone who put country first and, for the first time, someone they could work with. DAP’s coming on board was pivotal.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), founded by Mahathir’s nemesis, Anwar, originally as the antidote to Mahathirism, also joined the ranks, burying the past for the sake of the country.

The Opposition had now found common cause with Mahathir and saw him as the only viable hope of leading a united opposition to unseat BN.

Mahathir’s strategy was to personalise the battle. Najib, more than UMNO-BN, became the target of his vitriol. He repeatedly used the epithets “thief, robber, pirate” against Najib in his speeches and seemed to be goading the authorities to take him on.

The opposition parties – PKR, DAP, Amanah (a breakaway from the Islamist party, PAS) and Mahathir’s own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) – formed the Pakatan Harapan coalition, modelled on BN. They agreed to contest the upcoming general election under the PH banner.

Mahathir was named Prime Minister-designate, as he was the most credible chance PH had of unseating the incumbent. It was a saleable proposition to the Malay heartland voters.

For his stand, Mahathir was relieved of his lucrative government posts, and a campaign of vilification against him followed through the mainstream print and electronic media. The same media and politicians who had all once sung his praises overnight began sticking their daggers in.

Mahathir was inured to such a reaction – he had seen this and worse in his fabled career. Convinced that he was fighting the good fight, he just shrugged and got on with the task at hand.

If anything, the scorn poured on him only strengthened his resolve. Besides the political rallies, all means available – including the online news media, social media and (when possible) even foreign media – were deployed to spread the word: change was not an option, it was a necessity.

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On the cusp of turning 93, Mahathir is in sparkling health and his mental acuity is as sharp as ever. The campaign is like an elixir of youth from which he drinks and rejuvenates himself: he is in his elements doing battle as he has done for decades. He speaks without notes for as long as 45 minutes at a time, on his feet and sometimes even without a podium to lean on.

Venturing into the Malay heartland, he is a man on a life’s mission – to save the country from ruin.

Reading the tea leaves

How this gripping saga will pan out is an open question. Mahathir is contesting in the parliamentary seat of Langkawi, where he should be a shoo-in,  in his home state of Kedah, where he is revered  as the state’s most illustrious son.

How his message of change is going down in the rest of the country, particularly in the Malay heartland, is harder to gauge. The early signs give reason for hope.

This is the first time ever that the opposition is contesting under a single banner. The government’s refusal to register Mahathir’s party PPBM and the PH coalition was taken in stride as yet another ploy to undermine the opposition like two other recent moves: the redrawing of electoral boundaries (gerrymandering) and the fixing of a mid-week polling day (9 May).

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The PKR logo is a stylied human eye

Without missing a beat, the coalition agreed to contest under the PKR banner. The irony is hard to miss. The PKR logo is a stylised human “eye”, symbolising the black eye Anwar suffered at the hands of the Police Chief while in custody. And now Mahathir could conceivably be the next Prime Minister, contesting under Anwar’s party banner. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Mahathir has also mended fences with Anwar, who is still in jail. But a dream ticket of Mahathir-Anwar is not to be for this election campaign.

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Still, there is Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah, the PKR President, who is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him in this battle. She was the one who announced Mahathir’s nomination for the Langkawi seat. She will assume the Deputy Prime minister’s post if PH captures Putrajaya and Mahathir becomes the country’s seventh prime minister.

The Chinese vote seems all but sewn up for PH, as it was in the 2013 general election, in the aftermath of which Najib coined the memorable “Chinese tsunami” pejorative, inspiring the “apa lagi Cina mahu” refrain in the mainstream media.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the Chinese component party of the ruling BN, seems headed for and reconciled to a bitter defeat. DAP will, for the first time in half a century, contest under the banner of a different party ie PKR.

Mahathir has admitted that BN’s mischaracterisation of the DAP – of which he himself was culpable when in power – was for political expediency. He now hails the DAP as an authentic Malaysian party. Ah, the vicissitudes of politics – no permanent enemies or friends.

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Mahathir now hails the DAP as an authentic Malaysian party. Ah, the vicissitudes of politics – no permanent enemies or friends.–Allen Lopez

Mahathir’s reassurance should go some way toward assuaging the suspicions of Malay heartland voters. For Mahathir, once labelled a Malay ultra, to call DAP an authentically Malaysian party should count for something.

The Indian Malaysian vote, which could be important in a few marginal seats, is less predictable. The urban, more politically aware, Indians seem very much with the opposition, but the support of the Indian working class is unpredictable. The financial carrots waved before this bloc may favour the ruling party. Tamil-speaking Indian-Muslim Umno stalwarts are being deployed to sway the rural Indian vote. The promises made and the ethnic identity politics parlayed by these apparatchiks will have some traction.

The east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak have always been BN’s ‘fixed-deposit’ states. Sarawak may be tough to win for PH but the BN’s grip on Sabah could be loosened with sacked federal minister Shafie Apdal leading the charge there.

Pivotal Malay vote

Malays and other indigenous groups make up more than 65% of the electorate. They ultimately decide the victor.

Informed urban Malays seem to have had enough of the ruling party and appear ready for change. Indeed, the 51%-plus of the popular vote that the opposition won in the last general election mirrored this sentiment. Arguably, these Malays have even more reason to vote opposition this time around. The Malay youth plagued by unemployment and higher living costs too appear to veer towards the opposition.

The big unknown is the rural Malay base, for whom UMNO-BN and government mean one and the same thing. The big imponderable is how many of them will be persuaded by the ‘Mahathir factor’ to give the opposition a chance. Mahathir is still much respected among them, not only for championing their cause when in power but also because of his age. That he is willing to do battle at the age of almost 93, must mean something for more than a few of them.

Post script

If PH wrests Putrajaya from BN, history will be made, with Mahathir its chief architect. He will go down as the father of (real) democracy. For bequeathing that legacy on the nation, few will begrudge that he be fittingly honoured.

Some random ideas from this former harsh critic who is now a great admirer: declare 10 July, his birthday as Mahathir Day; perhaps rename the iconic structures associated with his premiership (KLIA, the Twin Towers or the North-South Expressway). It will be small payback for so monumental a bequest.

But that’s getting a little ahead of the game: 9 May will decide how real a prospect this is.

Allen Lopez is a chartered accountant who, after a long career in finance, moved to the legal profession. He has long hoped for the emergence of a viable two-party democracy in the country and believes the coming general election presents the best opportunity for the realisation of this hope.

Disclosure: Allen was a volunteer polling agent for the opposition in the 2013 general election. He is also slated to be a polling and counting agent for Pakatan Harapan/PKR in the coming general election.