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Analysis

New era under world’s oldest Prime Minister

A big mandate comes with big expectations but fortunately, the world’s oldest Prime Minister comes with a world of experience.


Written by

Updated: May 11, 2018

When dawn broke after the long­est night in Malaysian politics, it became clear that Barisan Nasion­al’s defeat in the general election was devastating.

A string of ministers as well as the presidents of four Barisan component parties had fallen, and the coalition was left with only 79 parliamentary seats and four states under its control.

The west coast states in the peninsula had fallen to Pakatan Hara­pan, while the east coast was shared between PAS and Barisan.

Sarawak and Sabah remained under Barisan – for now, at least.

It was the end of an era.

But does the second coming of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad represent the start of a new era?

Well, the convincing mandate he received suggests that many people believe so and he ought to be given the chance to implement the election promises that carried him to victory.

Malaysians have accepted the outcome of the election with a new maturity and it is clear that they want a peaceful transition of power.

There had been rumours of people stocking up on instant noodles and other foodstuff but Malaysian politics, despite the craziness on the Internet, has come a long way.

Moreover, it was not just another Chinese tsunami like in 2013. This time, there was a Malay swing or rather a revolt of Malay voters against Barisan.

It could not be clearer than on election night, when Malay faces dominated the hundreds of Pakatan supporters who gathered at Padang Timur in Petaling Jaya following news that the Barisan government had fallen. They wanted to show their support for the change in government.

“The Malay ground had been eerily quiet for almost a year. From what we saw on May 9, it was a clear message from the Malay heartland and also the urban Malay base that they were disappointed by what they saw around them.

“Some of them went for PAS, some went for Pakatan, but they were all against Umno,” said KRA Group strategy director Amir Fareed Rahim.

When Amir heard that seats in Sarawak were tipping over at about 7pm on election night, he knew it would be a troubled evening.

“Once the eastern wall was breached, I knew the tide was coming,” said Amir.

But it has been terribly hard for the Barisan side to accept and at his first press conference after the polls, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak hit out at the fake news and slander that had been directed at him and his coalition.

He said he accepted the verdict of the people, but sounded bitter that his government’s policies had failed to resonate with them.

It was not exactly a speech conceding defeat, and his statement that it was in the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong’s Constitutional power to decide who to accept as prime minister triggered all sorts of speculation.

The fact that he said it twice made it seem like some sort of coded statement.

Was there something going on behind the scenes?

The prime minister designate, whom a CNN report referred to as the oldest in the world, arrived at the palace at about 4.30pm in a black Proton limousine with the number plate “Proton 2020”. It was like he was continuing where he had last left off.

He was dressed for a royal audience, while his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali looked stylish in a black lace baju kurung and matching jewels.

The swearing-in had been “postponed” twice and there were calls from people, including the Inspector-General of Police and the Sultan of Johor, urging for a smooth and swift transition of power.

A Singapore TV station had reported that Dr Mahathir was barred from entering the palace earlier in the day, but it turned out to be untrue.

But as the afternoon wore on and there was still no sign of a swearing-in, speculation mounted that Dr Mahathir was having some problems being accepted by the palace for the top post.

Besides, it is well known that he gave the Kelantan royal family a hard time after PAS came to power in the state in 1990.

He was among several personalities who were not invited for the swearing-in and royal installation of Sultan Muhammad V.

The media had been given the impression that it would take place on Thursday morning, then it was supposed to be in the afternoon, and it finally took place shortly before 10pm.

Apparently, part of the delay had to do with the Agong meeting the party leaders of Pakatan individually for their views on the appointment.

The respective party chiefs were there to present letters endorsing Dr Mahathir for the top job and the Warisan letter supporting Dr Mahathir arrived only early this morning.

With the swearing-in done, Pakatan leaders can now start talks regarding Cabinet posts so that the new Mahathir government can get going.

Dr Mahathir will have his hands full as his coalition strives to fulfil its first 100-day election promises and seek a royal pardon for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

And the world is watching.

 



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The Star
About the Author: The Star is an English-language newspaper based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

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