Mahathir’s agenda was four-fold – stymie Anwar’s ambitions to succeed him; limit the influence of the DAP which he felt had grown too powerful; isolate his enemies within UMNO; and build a new Malay powerhouse to replace UMNO as the dominant political force in the country. And so, while others in PH were busy with the reform agenda, Mahathir played his great game.
Dennis Ignatius, Focus Malaysia
AS the power struggle continues, more and more details are becoming available about the events surrounding the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister. It is a stunning tale of treachery and betrayal the likes of which we have not seen before.
Though all the key actors are, of course, putting their own spin on the revelations, one thing is abundantly clear: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – and Mahathir alone – stands at the epicentre of it all. Far from being the victim of a devilish plot, this is a conspiracy with his fingerprints all over it.
Remember, Mahathir returned to office in 2018 with everything going for him – a popular mandate, a comfortable majority in Parliament, and perhaps the broadest multi-ethnic support ever enjoyed by a prime minister in modern times. No other leader was better placed at the time of his swearing-in to unite the country, institute much-needed reforms and position the nation to fulfil its true potential.
But for Mahathir, being Mahathir, it was not enough. With the benefit of hindsight, a convincing argument can now be made that he returned to Putrajaya with an agenda of his own that was clearly at variance with that of his other coalition partners and inconsistent with the promises he made in the heat of the election campaign.
Mahathir’s agenda was four-fold – stymie Anwar’s ambitions to succeed him; limit the influence of the DAP which he felt had grown too powerful; isolate his enemies within UMNO; and build a new Malay powerhouse to replace UMNO as the dominant political force in the country.
And so, while others in PH were busy with the reform agenda, Mahathir played his great game. He repeatedly vowed to step down (at some unspecified date) but continuously cast doubts about Anwar’s suitability to succeed him. Nothing Anwar could have done – short of retiring from politics – would have made any difference. Mahathir was never going to allow him to become prime minister.
At the same time, he went after Najib, Zahid and select UMNO leaders on charges of corruption, money laundering and abuse of power, determined to finish them off politically. Of course, they deserved the special attention of the attorney-general’s office but they were by no means the only ones who warranted special attention. Other leaders with equally sleazy records and a string of scandals attached to them were given a free pass because Mahathir needed their support to forge his new political machine.
Even as he went all out to demolish his principal adversaries in UMNO, he assiduously courted UMNO MPs and its rank and file members, hoping that he could instantly grow his party with UMNO crossovers. While he might lament the plague of frogs that recently did him in, he himself encouraged it when it suited him. He cared little that the culture of corruption ran deep within UMNO or that they did not share PH’s enthusiasm for reform and good governance; numbers were all that mattered to him.
The hook that he used to try to persuade UMNO and PAS members to join his cause was, of course, Malay supremacy. He took to complaining, for example, that Malay disunity obliged him to give away senior cabinet positions to non-Malays. About the same time, his son complained that there were too many non-Malays in Parliament. In October 2019, Mahathir upped the ante by surreptitiously sanctioning the Malay Dignity Congress where he joined UMNO and PAS leaders as well as PKR’s Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to push the Malay supremacist agenda.
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