The world in awe at the ‘re-invention’ of Mahathir

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The weight of the Bersatu movement under Tun Mahathir is not yet accounted for by analysts…

Mahathir re-invented: this is the main view of most of the media across the world and they are apparently impressed how the 92 year old is putting up a monster fight against both the 60 year rule of the Umno and the tainted regime of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Former Prime Minister and strong man of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad is ready to launch the election campaign for the opposition, whether he is nominated as the future PM or not.

“Whatever the government does … to make us fail, we will have plan B, plan C, plan D, and plan E.” Mahathir said at a press conference.

The opposition coalition is set to announce who will lead the group in the next General Elections with a growing consensus that Mahathir should be the next PM. If this materialise, the world will be reeling on its head upon seeing that a man whom the world media had called dictator, has re-invented himself into a ‘democratic leader.”

The Canadian paper, the Globe and Mail yesterday wrote: During Mahathir Mahathir’s era in power, Malaysia leapt ahead economically, but was considered the most repressive Southeast Asian country outside of Communist Vietnam and military-ruled Myanmar.

Mahathir is historically credited for turning this laid-back agricultural nation into a fast-track modern economy that became one of the most aggressive ‘Asian tigers’ in the 1980-1990’s.

Mahathir had the winning team on his side at that time, with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as minister of finance in his cabinet and the country’s economy growing at fast speed.

But then came the Asian financial crisis that derailed both Mahathir’s and Anwar’s plans. Mahathir was on the path to retirement having seen his protégé Anwar doing well, while Anwar was certain he will be the next PM after battling it out successfully against all the other opponents in the Umno.

It was the top of the world for both leaders and for the country where a ‘feel good’ factor was always around the corner.

The crisis in 1998 led to the dramatic sacking and jailing of Anwar which in turn led to a large segment of the Malay-Muslim population to turn against the Umno in the 1999 elections.

The Globe and Mail said that few could have imagined an election such as the one expected here early this year. The campaign will see the country’s long-time autocratic ruler, Mahathir Mohamad, recast as the man who just might bring an end to six decades of one-party rule in the country.

Mahathir, once a staunch adversary against Anwar the man whom he would not want as PM, has joined Anwar in the opposition to fight against what the opposition calls a ‘corrupt’ regime. The main aim of the Pakatan Harapan is to bring down Najib.

To bring him down, the opposition need to win more seats in Peninsular Malaysia, and these are seats taken either by the Umno or by the Islamists PAS, an opposition component that has left the Pakatan to join the Umno (secretly it seems).

And to beat both the PAS and the Umno, the Pakatan will need more than an Anwar in jail to make headway within the Malay heartlands and along the fringe of the industrialised state of Selangor where life is still as laid-back as it were in the 1980’s.

It is the numbers that counts in the laid-back areas of Selangor, Perak, Perlis, Kedah, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor or Pahang. We are talking here of the Malay-Muslim majority of the country.

And by all means, Mahathir seems to be the man who can speak the language of the people living outside the urban areas.

According to Channel News Asia, Dr Mahathir is understood to be a top candidate for the position of interim prime minister until Anwar can take over, but the coalition is said to be divided over this.

There are reports of division among the Pakatan on the future PM issue, but it is clear that neither Anwar nor his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail are in a position to impose their will.

But despite the skepticism and the divisions, the opposition grouping is aware that it needs a familiar face that can win over rural Malay voters, the traditional supporters of the Umno.

“Veterans of Malaysia’s reform movement, many of them bitter critics of Mr. Mahathir – some of whom were jailed for their opposition to him – now find themselves lining up behind their long-time nemesis. T

“They’re hoping a familiar face can win over rural Malay voters who have traditionally supported the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, the party that has ruled Malaysia since it gained independence in 1957,” wrote The Globe.

The marriage of convenience between Mr. Mahathir and his former opponents is an awkward one. “For me – for many people – we’re actually not happy with him because he did not renounce his past,” said Wong Chin Huat, a veteran democracy activist who organized his first street protests during the latter years of Mr. Mahathir’s role. “I don’t think it’s possible for me to convince him of my interpretation of the past. But on the future, we can agree.”

Only up to a point. While the opposition has consented to fall in behind Mr. Mahathir and his Save Malaysia movement for the coming election, cracks emerge on the question of what would happen if the opposition were to win the vote.

Some say they expect Mr. Mahathir – who appears to be in robust health and claims he can still wear the same clothes that fit him 30 years ago – would return to the prime minister’s post just ahead of his 93rd birthday.

Others say that whoever becomes PM, they should only stay in office only long enough to pardon veteran opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim – who was jailed in 2015 on a sodomy charge widely viewed as politically motivated – and to clear the way for Mr. Anwar to take the top job.

The only thing the various factions agree on is the need to defeat UMNO and depose Mr. Najib, said The Globe.

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