On October 11, 2022, Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad announced, that he will fight back in the general elections expected next month at the old age of 97.
In what became a landmark decision in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur will see its prominent opposition leader and veteran politician, Mahathir Mohamad contest in the general elections at the age of 97.
Malaysia is set to hold a general election in the coming days after its current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved the Parliament on Monday.
It is reported from a news conference that Mr. Mahathir announced that “We have not decided who will be prime minister because the prime minister candidate is only relevant if we win”. It would be worthwhile to see whether Mahathir would be the next Prime Minister, a post that has a five-year term.
Ismail Sabri Yaakob of BN UMNO (United Malays National Organization party) is serving as the PM of Malaysia since 21 August 2021, decided to disband the Parliament on Monday due to the pressure mounting from his United Malays National Organization party, which is optimistic on its victory amid feuds with allies in the ruling coalition.
The Election Commission is yet to fix a date within the coming week for a vote, which must be held within 60 days of Parliament’s dissolution.
It should also be noted that the aged politician will defend his parliamentary seat in Langkawi island and he also fears that the former prime minister Najib Razak would be released from jail if the current dispensation under the UNMO party wins the upcoming election.
Having been the UMNO leader for 22 years, Mr. Mahathir Mohamad until his retirement in 2003. Thereafter, in 2016, he was inspired to make his political return by the massive looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund during Najib’s term in office and publicize his opposition to lead a historic victory in 2018 polls that ousted UMNO, which had been in power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1957.
Not only did he gain national fame but also became the world’s oldest head of government at the age of 93. However, his reformist alliance collapsed in less than two years in the face of newer challenges, open defections, and graft charges against some of the party leaders.
Following the collapse of the government in 2020, Mr. Mahathir formed the famous Pejuang party with the help of new alliances with several minor parties.
On multiple occasions, Mr. Mahathir has pulled on the UMNO and raised his voice on Tuesday for criticising the UMNO for putting its own interest first while holding elections in difficult times. He also argued that the UMNO aims to gain people’s cooperation by offering them bribes and money.
According to Mahathir, UMNO’s main idea is to free Najib, who began his 12-year jail term in August related to the corruption case linked to the 1MDB scandal. Najib could be extended in his jail term for several other issues linked to 1MDB. UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is also on trial for many other graft charges unrelated to the 1MDB case.
Speaking about the current situation, Mr. Mahathir said. “Should they be able to win and form the government, that is their first objective, not about the welfare of the people.” Turning away from political liabilities, Mr. Mahathir said his political alliance hasn’t been officially approved yet and that some 120 candidates will run under Pejuang’s banner in Malay-dominated parliamentary seats.
Some investigators also estimate that Mahathir’s pull may not appeal to ethnic Malay voters who supported him in 2018. On the other hand, UMNO, which earlier had only 36 out of 222 lawmakers in the just-dissolved Parliament, now believes that many Malays will return to its fold after its landslide victory in recent byelections.
The stronghold of Mr. Mahathir, The Alliance of Hope, which led him to victory in the 2018 polls, remains the key contender with 90 lawmakers. It was Anwar Ibrahim, the current prime minister candidate who was originally expected to succeed Mr. Mahathir before their government lost power.
There seem to be multi-faceted dimensions in the current political game which give Malaysia’s parliament a distinct character. While it is known that both Mr. Mahathir and UMNO compete strongly with others for the votes of Malays, it would be important to win over them who account for about two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people. Additionally, Anwar’s alliance depends on a multi-racial platform while Ethnic Chinese and Indians form large minorities in the country.
In the words of Anwar Ibrahim, the election will be a time for the people to vote out traitors who led to the collapse of his alliance government in 2020. The outcome of this election might turn out to be rewarding as it would bring forth various sides that are vying for power and also show how fragile political systems can be.