Will Dr. Mahathir succeed in the 14th General Election?

FIEL - In this Aug. 13, 2017, file photo, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a forum in Shah Alam, Malaysia. Malaysia's opposition alliance has named 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir as its prime minister candidate for general elections to boost its chances of wrestling power from a coalition that has ruled since independence. (AP Photo/Daniel Chan, File)

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (AP)

For the first time in Malaysia’s history since its independence in 1957, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) being the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional (BN) government today, will be challenged by its former president who is also the former Prime Minister (PM) of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, in the 14th General Election (GE) that will be held any time before August this year.

Mahathir is leading a newly formed opposition party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) as its chairman. Recently, the opposition party, Pakatan Harapan leaders chose Mahathir as the candidate for the Prime Minister’s post if the pact wins the upcoming GE.

Mahathir joined the opposition party in the late 2015 with the aim to overthrow the current Prime Minister, Najib Razak and BN government.

In the case where Mahathir becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia once again this year, he will be the oldest leader of this era. Mahathir was the fourth PM of Malaysia, leading the country for 22 years from 1981 till 2003. He spent around 72 years in politics since he first joined the newly formed UMNO party in 1946.

Following Mahathir being the candidate for the next Prime Minister of Malaysia, some independent political analysts’ feel that the opposition party does not follow conventional democratic practices.

Such analysts said the party should be more open as to give way to a younger leader to lead the nation and not “closing its doors” and clinging to the older candidate (referring to Mahathir) to be the Prime Minister.

An academic from a local university emphasized that if Mahathir comes back into power, it will not be beneficial for the country. However, he said foreign investors would far prefer a more politically stable country with a long reigning Prime Minister to enable them to see their investment results for longer term.

Nevertheless, the decision of Mahathir being the candidate for the post of Prime Minister if the pact wins in the GE has aroused some critics amongst opposition party members. One critic said, “We just cannot accept Mahathir after what he has done to some opposition leaders like detaining them under the Internal Security Act (ISA) during his premiership of 22 years.’’

 

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, center, waves to the members of media after being denied to visit jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Malaysia's opposition alliance has named 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as its prime minister candidate for upcoming general elections to boost its chances of wrestling power from a coalition that has ruled since independence. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, center, waves to the members of media after being denied to visit jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP )

 

At another angle, many observers said that Mahathir is not the only opposition candidate for the PM post. Leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Anwar Ibrahim, who is now serving a 5-year imprisonment for allegations of sodomy, is also on the ballot. Recently, the Prisons Department Director General, Zulkifli Omar, announced that Anwar will be released from jail on June 8, 2018.

Anwar began serving his sentence in February 2015, but prisoners get a one-third reduction of their original sentence under the Malaysian laws. Still, Anwar cannot legally run for political office for five years upon his release unless he receives a pardon from the Malaysian King.

Meanwhile, independent survey results have shown that the opposition would have difficulty beating Najib due to the divisions within itself and unfavourable electoral boundary changes. Analysts also said that if Mahathir manage to oust Najib, it could pave the way for Anwar to return and take over as Prime Minister of Malaysia. “If the opposition wins, the process to obtain a royal pardon for Anwar should start immediately so that he is eligible to become a prime minister,” said a PKR leader at the alliance’s recently held convention.

Anwar was once a protégé of Mahathir but they had a falling out in the late 1990s. Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy and graft after being sacked as the deputy prime minister. He denied all charges and dismissed them as politically motivated.

Anwar then led an opposition alliance to win the 2013 general election. Najib’s coalition lost the popular votes in that election but won a majority of seats in Parliament.

Fast-forward, and Anwar is again convicted in 2014 for sodomy. He claimed that the sentence was an attempt to end his political career and was jailed a year later after failing to overturn the verdict, as revealed by an international news agency.

Meanwhile, a strong opposition against Najib in the past few years over an alleged corruption scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) has brought Anwar and Mahathir together again.

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