Don’t write off Mahathir just yet, pundits told

PETALING JAYA: An analyst has cautioned pundits against rushing to dismiss Dr Mahathir Mohamad from the political arena just because Pakatan Harapan (PH) has decided to back PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as its prime minister candidate.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said it was too soon to write the former prime minister off.

He told FMT he didn’t see Mahathir giving up trying to oust Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to take the post for himself although PH’s latest decision had forced him to look for a new formula.

“One should never write off Mahathir,” he said. “The fact is that he’s still an icon in the Malay community. It’s not so easy to get rid of him.

“PH’s decision not to support him doesn’t mean he can’t create a new coalition. But it will be hard.”

Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said Mahathir had lost some negotiating power and would be closely examining his cards before deciding on his next move.

“He will wait and see to assess the best and most politically rewarding option,” he said.

However, Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the snub Mahathir had suffered could spell the end of his political exploits.

He seemed to have lost the political clout he had before the 2018 general election and his future now looked bleak, he added.

Azmi told FMT he would rule out Mahathir’s return to PPBM since the party was now collaborating with Umno.

“Mahathir and Umno working together will never happen,” he said.

He also said it would be wise for Mahathir to decide against defending his Langkawi seat should a snap election be called.

“PH’s backing of Anwar as its designated prime minister means that Mahathir will lose significant PH support. So I don’t see how it is feasible for Mahathir to defend Langkawi.”

But Azman said Mahathir would probably defend the seat and would choose to retire from politics only if he could attain some form of “political satisfaction”.

“For example, if his son Mukhriz’s position in politics is really secured, then he may step away from politics in peace.”

Chin also predicted that Mahathir would defend the Langkawi seat since he would need to be an MP in order to be prime minister again.

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