Let us begin this discussion by getting the facts out of the way. As the longest reigning Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad spent more than two decades in power and in that time put in place many of the mechanisms now used by the ruling party to frustrate the opposition. It was Mahathir who took away the check-and-balance power of the monarchy.
In the face of his old weapons being so deftly wielded against him, Mahathir has put together PBBM, which offers former DPM Muyhiddin Yassin as the opposition coalition’s Prime Minister candidate.
And the crows are coming home to roost with a vengeance. Mahathir’s history of silencing his political opponents has caught up with him as the people he seeks to cooperate with realise that the hour for revenge has come. For example, Saari Sungib, a former ISA detainee and now an official of Parti Amanah Negara, has added his voice to calls for Mahathir to show remorse and to repent.
Saari says he is more than willing to work with the old doctor, but he has imposed a condition: Mahathir must first own up to his alleged misdeeds and apologise openly to the people and to Anwar Ibrahim.
We don’t know yet whether Saari is speaking for himself, for Amanah, or for Pakatan Harapan, but we can expect similar statements from opposition figures in the coming days.
However, such demands are nonsensical. The opposition has no plan and no agenda for the next GE. Despite all the scandals Barisan Nasional has been associated with, it is still set to win because the opposition parties have been more content to engage in infighting than to work towards the election. Right now, they can’t afford to push Mahathir away. They need to embrace him.
Anyway, it’s not as if Mahathir has not been apologising. Indeed, he has been on something of an apology tour in the past couple of months. He obviously knows that his first challenge is to build momentum against Najib by winning over the opposition’s supporters.
The opposition must realise that its support will continue to bleed as long as it keeps its head in the sand. It takes strong grassroots support to gain momentum for an electoral fight, and the question that remains is whether Mahathir’s voters will drift towards PKR, DAP, and Amanah and vice versa. Both sides will need to justify their partnership to their grassroots.
Failure to do so will mean giving BN another five years and paving the way for Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi. Now, wouldn’t that be something to have to apologise to the people for?