A referendum on Dr M too?

Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

Has Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s involvement in on the final day of campaigning added yet another layer to an already packed agenda for today’s triple by-elections?

By making an eleventh hour blitz through Bukit Gantang and Selambau, the former Prime Minister, whose shadow continues to loom large over local politics and especially Umno, has stolen the thunder once again.

The results from the two polls will now be the clearest indication yet of whether the love-him-or-hate-him statesman, is more loved or hated.

Nearly 100,000 Malaysians were set to decide on what has been hyped up – especially by Pakatan Rakyat – as a multiple referendum.

The overall score is to be a vote of (no) confidence in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s newly-minted premiership, the legitimacy of the Perak coup by Barisan Nasional is to be decided in Bukit Gantang, the relevance of Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s MIC to be settled in Bukit Selambau and the question of any inroads made by the opposition in East Malaysia to be answered in Batang Ai.

Bukit Selambau election director Saifuddin Nasution making a last-minute reminder to PKR supporters not to be confused by the record-breaking 15-choice ballot paper.

But by taking to the stump to discredit his former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and then telling Indians in Bukit Selambau to vote for BN, Dr Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister ever, has given voters another – albeit, unnecessary – reason to make their voice heard.

Last night, as the clock ticked towards the official end of campaigning at midnight, Opposition Leader Anwar’s reaction to the man who sacked him from government some 11 years ago was conspicuous in its absence.

“It’s okay, don’t disturb him,” he told 3,000 supporters who had braved the rain.

The PKR de facto leader had spent less than a minute preceding that to ridicule Dr Mahathir’s call to support MIC’s Datuk S. Ganesan as Bukit Selambau assemblyman.

Instead, it was PKR vice president Azmin Ali who had made the challenge to Bukit Selambau to reject Dr Mahathir.

“If Malays have really rallied behind Umno’s new leadership, then why do they need to bring out this old newspaper?” he mocked.

“I challenge you to strike him out of Bukit Selambau,” he told the crowd after telling Dr Mahathir to “look yourself in the mirror before talking about democracy” as he accused him of degrading the institution of the courts, Malay rulers and the police force during his 22-year premiership.

Eventually, Dr Mahathir will probably have added votes for BN across all three constituencies after his speeches were broadcast over national television.

But failure to tip the scales over to BN in the Peninsula seats, which were looking too close to call until yesterday, will show that his influence is not as potent as Umno had hoped it to be.