According to an article in The Star published in January, political analysts believe Langkawi is Mahathir’s best bet for a win in the upcoming general election.
The former Prime Minister, who confirmed he would be running for the Langkawi seat on March 15, has been widely credited with developing the area and turning it into the thriving tourist destination it is today. His was responsible for declaring Langkawi a free port and establishing the Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) to encourage development of the island, according to The Star.
As Joceline Tan asserts in an analysis piece for The Star, regardless of their feelings about Mahathir’s decision to contest in Langkawi, the islanders interviewed seemed to agree that he was responsible for its growth and status.
“If there was no Mahathir, there would be no Langkawi like what you see today,” a Chinese businessman is quoted as saying in the article.
In contrast, Nawawi Ahmad, a first-term MP who won his seat in the 2013 General Election by 11,861 votes, has raised the public’s ire on more than one occasion with his ill-thought-out comments.
In 2014, Nawawi was widely criticised for uploading a picture of DAP veteran Karpal Singh after his death in a car accident alongside a newspaper article in which the former DAP chairman stated that “an Islamic state can only happen ‘over my dead body,’” The Star reported.
He also drew flak for a comment that his salary came from the government rather than taxpayers, and for telling those upset by the new Goods and Services Tax to go live on the moon.
However, even with Mahathir fighting the battle on the opposition’s behalf, a win is far from a certainty.
The constituency has been a strong supporter of Barisan Nasional since it was established in 1994 and while many acknowledge Mahathir’s contributions to the development of Langkawi, some wonder if he is still up to the job.
“Actually, I am not sure why he is doing this. My friends say he is doing it for his son,” Malay businessman Ridzwan Abdul Rahman is quoted as saying in Tan’s article.
“I respect him, but he is too old to lead Langkawi. What can he do if he wins? We have to think of the future.”
Langkawi MCA division chief, Tan Lai Beng, expressed similar thoughts.
“We remember his deeds, he introduced Langkawi to the world. If we really love him, we should not support his move. The island needs someone with the energy to serve and bring in tourism.”
Livelihoods, too were raised as a concern.
“We always supported him when he was in Umno. If he wins, will our livelihood change? Will the prices of things come down? BR1M is very important to us, They said they want to stop it,” Norazita Dahari, who runs a village stall near the famous Black Sand Beach, said in Tan’s article.
Malaysia’s 14th general election will be held on May 9.