Dr M simply cannot let go

Terence Netto, Free Malaysia Today

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s latest announcement that he might stand again for the Langkawi parliamentary seat should surprise no one.

And not for the reason he offers, that his party, Pejuang, has candidates but they might not be deemed suitable and hence he would have no choice but to stand.

As often with Mahathir, matters become self-referential: he does the determining but is careful to avoid seeming so.

People have grown tired of this charade, but Mahathir pretends not to notice.

Long-overstaying behemoth leaders like Mahathir project the aura of Charles de Gaulle: “After me, the deluge.” What this meant was that after a titan leaves the stage, the mediocre sweep in.

Essentially, this is what has happened to Umno after Mahathir first retired as prime minister in 2003.

His overstaying as prime minister had stalled the democratic processes of periodic refurbishment and replenishment of party leadership ranks.

A vacuum in leadership, spawned by a long-staying leader-giant, invites the mediocre to be aspirational.

Unlike Mahathir, Charles de Gaulle did embody in person a certain lofty vision of France such that the application of the epithet was not exactly ill-fitting.

For such titanic leaders, the best claim of suitability to lead was their ability to strengthen the best purposes and curtail the worst instincts of the polities they led.

There was a dearth of these statesman-like aspects of leadership in Mahathir’s long first stint of 22 years as prime minister and the paucity of such qualities in his second ministry of 22 months was worsened by a shiftiness of purpose.

This led observers to remind themselves that character is indeed destiny and that leopards do not change their spots.

The enormous misreading of Mahathir took time to register with voters.

After something like two years since he quit as prime minister, they delivered a verdict last March by sending his party’s 42 candidates in the Johor state elections packing without their deposits.

Months on from that whitewash, Mahathir still harbours the notion that he and his party can command support. Voters will have to wait until GE15 to see if this expectation is more glitter than gold.