Mahathir has been reduced to a political refugee


It was Mahathir and not Wan Azizah who announced the new coalition yesterday. Is not Wan Azizah the Opposition Leader? Or has Mahathir, with the support of PKR, DAP and PAN, ousted Wan Azizah? But then Mahathir is not even a party member let alone a party leader or MP. So what is his locus standi?


Raja Petra Kamarudin

There had been talk for quite some months that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad would be forming a new party. In fact, ‘The Third Force’, a Malaysia Today columnist, has been writing about this for some time. Many pooh-poohed the idea at first but now what ‘The Third Force’ wrote has been proven true.

The events over the last 20 months have more or less given Mahathir very little choice in the matter. Mahathir launched many battles but each battle ended in defeat. There is only one thing in Mahathir’s mind: which is to oust Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Instead, his running mate, Muhyiddin Yassin, was ousted as the Deputy Prime Minister while his son, Mukhriz, was ousted as the Kedah Menteri Besar. And then recently they were sacked from the party.

Mahathir knows that there is no longer any future for Mukhriz in Umno, let alone any chance for him to become the Deputy Prime Minister — which is the first prerequisite for him to become the Prime Minister around 2020 and beyond. So Mahathir has no choice but to form a new party as the platform for his son’s political career — which, of course, has to include the ousting of Najib if that is going to happen.

But a new party would go nowhere unless it is part of a coalition (even Umno will not make it outside a coalition) and unless it can be assured of contesting the elections in straight fights and not face three or more corner contests. The two recent by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar have proven this. And that is why Mahathir wants a new opposition coalition to first be agreed before he launches his new party — which is really what yesterday was all about.

The new party that Mahathir is going to form is actually a secondary issue. A new party outside a coalition is a waste of time and Mahathir knows this. So Mahathir wants to first seal the coalition before he even bothers about forming a new party. And if a new coalition is not going to happen then Mahathir might as well just announce his retirement like what Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah just did today.

Whether this new party and the new coalition can capture the imagination of the voters is yet to be seen. The first reaction from most Malaysians is that this new arrangement is only about his son. Mahathir has a colossal job ahead of him to convince the voters that this is for the good of the country and not about the future of his family.

Nevertheless, Kadir Jasin, Mahathir’s spin-doctor, just uploaded his latest blog posting and he said that the purpose of the new party is to oust the Prime Minister. “The meeting agreed that the parties opposing the Barisan Nasional and wanting the removal of the Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, should be more focussed, united and inclusive,” said Kadir.

This is like the British Brexiteers announcing that the purpose of their campaign is to ensure that the UK gets out of the EU and that they are united and focused about it. Okay, that is well and fine. And then their campaign wins. So now what next?

Oops…we never planned for what next. We just planned to win the campaign but did not really sit down to plan what to do after that in the event we win.

Yes, that appears to be the current situation in the UK. They only planned to win. They did not plan what to do in the event they do win. So in Malaysia the Anti-Najib Campaign (ANC) is also planning to win (meaning to oust Najib). But they have no plans on what to do in the event they successfully oust Najib.

For whatever it is worth, at least the Reformasi Movement of 1998 had a plan. The objective, of course, was to oust the then Prime Minister, Mahathir. And since Mahathir refused to step down then Umno and Barisan Nasional would need to be ousted to force Mahathir out of office. But then what happens if or when that happens?

Well, there was an Agenda for Reforms (Agenda Reformasi) drafted regarding what the opposition Barisan Alternatif coalition would do if or when it gets into power (and it was drafted by about half a dozen of us based on input from Anwar Ibrahim from the Sungai Buloh Prison).

Of course, Barisan Alternatif won two states but did not win federal power. Nevertheless, a Shadow Cabinet was formed with each ‘Ministry’ comprising of a committee. I was in one such ‘cabinet committee’ for media and communications.

It was well organised and it was effective. 1999 to 2004 was probably the best period in opposition political history. Barisan Alternatif was not just an opposition coalition. It was a government-in-waiting. It shadowed Barisan Nasional and even presented a far better budget than the government’s three days before the government presented its budge in Parliament.

In fact, the government had to quickly amend their budget at the eleventh hour and they stole some of our ideas to incorporate into the government budget. Do they not say that imitation is the best form of flattery?

Nevertheless, in spite of how well organised Barisan Alternatif was, and in spite of 1999-2004 being the best-managed period in opposition coalition history, Barisan Alternatif still got massacred in the 2004 general election, the worse election in history for the opposition.

How did the best period for the opposition end up as the worst election performance for the opposition? Well, simple, the opposition was too focused with ousting Mahathir and replacing him with Anwar Ibrahim as the new Prime Minister. The whole thing was about ousting Mahathir and replacing him with Anwar. So the good points of what the opposition had to offer were lost in translation.

And this is what is going to happen to this new coalition and to Mahathir’s new party as well. It is too much about ousting Najib and replacing him with a proxy Prime Minister who is going to appoint Mukhriz the new Deputy Prime Minister cum Prime Minister-in-waiting.

That was the failure of the opposition in 1999-2004. And that is going to be the failure of the opposition in 2018 as well. And in 2004 the opposition had five years to work the ground. This time the opposition has only two years, or maybe even less time.

What is even more crucial is that yesterday Mahathir appeared to be the ringmaster of the latest circus in town. But then the question is who appointed him the new Opposition Leader? Normally the Opposition Leader is a Member of Parliament and the leader of the opposition party with the most number of seats in Parliament and so on. Mahathir is not even a party member, let alone a party leader or MP or whatever, not even an ADUN.

So what is Mahathir’s locus standi, a mere citizen of Malaysia? The way I see it, Mahathir hijacked Pakatan Harapan just like Anwar hijacked Bersih and appointed his proxy, Ambiga, to head the movement (once Bersih was proven successful in November 2007 after many months of hard work). Anwar grabbed Bersih just like Mahathir has now grabbed Pakatan.

Actually, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail should have called for and headed that press conference yesterday and she should have announced a new opposition coalition to replace Pakatan Harapan, or announce that the coalition would now be expanded to include a couple of new parties such as Dr. Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan’s new Sabah party and Mahathir’s new party not yet formed but about to be formed.

So what did Mahathir do yesterday? He practically did a coup d’état and ousted Wan Azizah as the Opposition Leader. And it looks like PKR, DAP and PAN supports the ouster of Wan Azizah and endorses Mahathir as the new Opposition Leader. Is this the case of a homeless political refugee grabbing control by force?

Did they fail to invite Wan Azizah yesterday or did they invite her but she is too smart to attend a function that she knows is doomed to fail from the start?

Mahathir knows that yesterday’s announcement was merely a reinvention of the earlier Save Malaysia thing that failed. Even the so-called more than one million signatures on that Citizens’ Declaration have now been proven fraudulent.

Most importantly, why did Mahathir not form his new party first and after his party is registered only then call for the expansion or formation of a new opposition coalition? Yesterday’s event should have been held after his party is formed.

I mean the new coalition might fail if Mahathir asks for 50% of the seats for his new party or if Pakatan only agrees to give him less than 5% of the seats. (Remember they said it is going to be straight fights only?) So how many seats are PKR and DAP prepared to sacrifice? And what about PAN? Would PAN get more or less seats than Mahathir’s new party?

So you see, the main stumbling block for the opposition is seat allocation. Since 1999 they have never been able to agree on this. And now we have a new player that will also want its share of seats. Will Mahathir be agreeable to take the same number of seats as PAN, yet another new party?

Now, if PAN and Mahathir’s party take 10% of the seats each while PKR and DAP share the balance 80% 50:50, that would make Mahathir’s party a non-significant player and a party that cannot really decide who should be the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and so on.

Mahathir wants to decide on who should become the next Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, etc., if Umno-Barisan Nasional gets kicked out. So you need the majority seats in Parliament and in the State Assemblies to do that. But how do you get the majority seats if you contest only 10% of the seats instead of 50% or more like Umno?

They said the new party would be replacing Umno while the new coalition would be replacing Barisan Nasional. In that case Mahathir’s new party must control around 100 or so seats in Parliament and 200 seats in the various state assemblies. And for that to happen they must contest more seats than just 5-10%. So this means PKR, DAP and PAN have to bagi jalan to Mahathir’s new party and sacrifice many of their seats.

That is not the only hurdle to overcome. That is just the first hurdle. But let us see how they overcome that first hurdle first. Barisan Alternatif collapsed soon after the 1999 general election. Pakatan Rakyat collapsed soon after the 2013 general election. And it is all because they said ‘we contest first and later sort out our differences’. But it does not work that way. History has proven this. So why should it work this time?