October 25, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – IT is quite sad to see this once great man begging for support from his long-time nemesis.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reached out twice to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to join forces in the general election.
And he has been rebuffed twice.
Anwar has been too kind to say an outright “No” but those around him have been vocal that they want nothing to do with Dr Mahathir.
The dance of war between these two men has been going on for more than 20 years. Their conflict has distorted the country’s politics for too long and it needs to end.
Why is Dr Mahathir so anxious, even desperate, to hook up with Pakatan Harapan?
A lot of it has to do with his own aspirations in Langkawi.
The seat is no longer as safe for him as in 2018 when he was riding on his own prestige and the national mood for change.
Langkawi folk thought he would bring back the magic to their island paradise. It did not happen and local businesses crashed during the pandemic.
Dr Mahathir garnered 18,954 votes in 2018, against Barisan Nasional (10,061 votes) and PAS (5,512 votes).
According to a think-tank chief, Dr Mahathir will be in danger if Pakatan joins the race.
Dr Mahathir’s big win was also thanks to Pakatan supporters, especially the 3,000-plus Chinese voters on the island.
He still commands respect among the locals but he needs Pakatan to stay out of the race if he is to win again and that was why he reached out to Anwar.
Chinese political opinion in Langkawi is no different from that of Chinese elsewhere and they see Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the chief culprits in the fall of the Pakatan government.
Umno will also recover some lost ground with a new candidate who is drawing positive feedback from many islanders.
Barisan is said to be fielding Datuk Armishah Siraj, who has served as principal private secretary to three Kedah mentris besar.
Armishah also has extensive experience as a civil servant in Langkawi and he has been moving around sorting out local issues the past few months.
Politicians need a thick skin to survive and the former premier is not bothered that people think he is shameless, running to Anwar after not keeping his promise to hand over the reins.
Dr Mahathir almost died after having elective surgery earlier this year and he had announced that he would not be contesting again.
His change of heart drew gasps all round although there was encouragement from his admirers that he is still in fighting mode at 97.
But most people were simply incredulous, their opinion being that someone his age is no longer in a position to lead or serve and has nothing more to prove.
“Nowadays, we say 60 is the new 50, and 50 is the new 40. But when you are 97, you are 97. I doubt he will get any Chinese votes,” said a retired Chinese doctor from Penang.
There were also some who associate this inability to let go with what happens in Africa or South America and they were, to put it mildly, disappointed that the legend has come to this.
“He did not want to contest but there was a lot of pressure for him to lead. He has done more than enough for the people of Langkawi. It’s up to them, if they assess him on his contributions, then he stacks up well,” said Pejuang head of research Akhramsyah Sanusi.
Besides, said Akhramsyah, it would not look great if Dr Mahathir, who is chairman of Pejuang and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA), sits it out.
Dr Mahathir is a newsmaker even though his speech is often slurred and he changes his storyline from one press encounter to another.
He is still the wittiest politician in town, he makes news even when mocking reporters for implying he is senile, and he plays games with the media on whether he is eyeing another stint as prime minister.
Dr Mahathir is still a thorn in Pakatan’s flesh, especially DAP leaders who persuaded 90% of the Chinese voters to accept him.
He is a reminder of DAP’s poor judgment, or of how voters were deceived into believing that he had changed.
Seeing the sun set on Dr Mahathir’s career would be a sort of vindication for politicians and voters who feel that they were played out.
Dr Mahathir managed to defy the odds four years ago, but so much has changed.
It is all up to the people of Langkawi who, despite their disappointments, are still grateful to the man who transformed the island into a paradise of opportunities.