Mahathir risks leaving a ‘loser’ if party fails to unseat Najib

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PETALING JAYA: Tough man Dr Mahathir Mohamad may risk losing the legacy he built as Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister if his newly-formed political party fails to unseat Najib Razak as Prime Minister in the next General Election.

In an article by Zuraidah Ibrahim that appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Mahathir was described as being so “sakit hati” over the 1MDB scandal, that he formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in a “full-frontal war” with Najib after previous efforts failed.

“On one level, it is admirable that someone who at 91, feels so moved to act. On another level, however, Mahathir’s latest gambit risks his own legacy.

“Instead of departing on his terms, as he did in 2003, he may now find himself leaving the scene a loser,” Zuraidah writes.

She argued that his new party, helmed by former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and Mahathir’s own son as deputy president, is already facing stiff opposition not only from Najib’s party Umno, but from Opposition supporters as well because of its “racialised politics”, by allowing only Bumiputeras.

In stark contrast, Opposition party PKR, she points out, opened its membership to all of Malaysia’s races, even if it achieved “limited success” with it.

She described Mahathir as the “comeback kid of his era”, and traced his start in politics as a vocal young backbencher who called for the resignation of his prime minister in 1969, to finally becoming the PM himself in 1981 but added that knowing when to exit was a critical judgement call any leader must eventually make.

“Knowing when to bow out is one of the critical judgement calls any leader must make, and history is full of fine leaders who failed in that one respect,” she writes, likening Mahathir to his “old nemesis” Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who had very much called the shots long after he stepped down as the island republic’s PM.

While it is “understandable” that Mahathir was “sakit hati” at the way his country was being run by the current crop of leaders, she writes, his heavy involvement in politics could be a sign that the younger politicians of the day were not up to mark.

“The real question is why a younger generation of politicians would need or want the services of a has-been.

“When yesterday’s man has to be rolled back in, it can only be because today’s men and women are bereft of answers. And that cannot be a good sign for the health of a country.”