Dr M defensive over Mukhriz, BN’s losses

(The Malaysian Insider) – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in a rare defensive mode today, denying that he lobbied for his son's inclusion in the Cabinet and putting a positive spin on his own dismal performance in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.

It has been a tough 24 hours for the former prime minister following the sound defeats by BN candidates in the two constituencies where he worked the ground and made stump speeches.

But the next 24 hours will be a lot more pleasant for the man who has made it a vocation to end the career of Khairy Jamaluddin, the Umno Youth chief.

Government sources said that it is almost certain that Khairy's name will be missing from the list of minister or deputy minister named by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tomorrow.

For the Prime Minister, the omission came down to one factor: who was more dangerous to alienate, Khairy or Dr Mahathir? The answer was a no-brainer.

Dr Mahathir, who blames Khairy for undermining his legacy and for being the power behind the throne during the Abdullah years, has been campaigning vigorously against his inclusion in the Cabinet, saying that he is corrupt.

The intensity of Dr Mahathir's attacks has given rise to speculation that he is actually angling for Najib to appoint Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to the Cabinet.

Some political insiders believe that he has considerable influence over  tomorrow's line-up.

Today, he denied that he was brokering a deal for Mukhriz's inclusion.

At a press conference, he said that he was not the sort of person who went to bat on behalf of his son.

But he continued to apply pressure on Najib not to appoint Khairy who was warned by Umno's disciplinary board for alleged money politics.

"If he is appointed, it would bring bad omen to BN as he has already been found guilty of corruption (by the party disciplinary board)," he said.

He was dismissive of those who claimed that he was a factor behind the bigger wins by Pakatan Rakyat in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections.

The former prime minister was trotted out at the secret weapon and BN leaders predicted that his return to Umno would galvanise the party and help the ruling coalition win over fence sitter voters.

Instead, anecdotal evidence suggests that many voters were put off by what they felt was a return of a leader who played a key role in developing the divide and rule style of politics here.

Careful not to apportion any blame to himself he said that the results of the by-elections showed that Najib and the BN had some way to go before reconnecting with the public.

"There are a lot of things that BN must do before the next general elections. It is difficult to change the people's minds. Najib must be firm in healing the image of BN, especially Umno," Dr Mahathir said.

He said a lack of development and rampant corruption exacerbated people's dissatisfaction with the government.

"People are unhappy to see that after almost six years, there is not much development and we don't know who got the government contracts. Many of the small- and medium-scale industries cannot survive," he added.

He also dismissed the idea that the Malays had kept faith with BN.

"If the Malays didn't vote for PKR in Bukit Selambau, PKR would not have won. The Indians are the minority there; they could not have won. If you add the Indian votes to the Chinese votes, they still could not win. The fact is many of the Malay voters gave their votes to PKR. It shows there are Malays who are dissatisfied with the government," he said.