In 1999 the opposition asked the voters to kick out Mahathir and replace him with Anwar. Today, the opposition is asking the voters to kick out Najib and replace him with…er…replace him with who? That is the dilemma they are facing today. In 2014 they decided to target Najib for assassination. So now they need to identify Najib’s successor or replacement if Pakatan Harapan marches into Putrajaya. And that successor or replacement is Mahathir himself.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s meeting with Lim Kit Siang last Friday finally paid off. Kit Siang has agreed to Mahathir’s terms and conditions for his party, PPBM a.k.a. Pribumi, to join the opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan.
Mahathir and Kit Siang finally came to an agreement last Friday on the terms of Pribumi joining Pakatan Harapan: the coalition must be registered with Mahathir as its Chairman
The first condition is for the coalition to be officially and legally registered, just like the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional. It also must have its own colours, logo and flag, just like Barisan Nasional.
The reason for this is so that all the members of Pakatan Harapan will contest the next general election under a common name, flag and logo, just like Barisan Nasional, and no longer under each individual party’s name, flag and logo like in the previous four general elections.
Mahathir hopes that this will confuse the voters and they will not be too clear whether that Pakatan Harapan candidate is from PKR, DAP, PAN or Pribumi. Everyone, never mind which party they are from, is from Pakatan Harapan and is a Pakatan Harapan candidate.
That is actually a very clever strategy and has been proven very effective.
Mahathir realises that Malays will not vote for DAP and Chinese will not vote for Pribumi or PAN, which are perceived as Malay nationalist and Islamist parties respectively. In fact, DAP, too, realises this and this was why last week Kit Siang told Pakatan Harapan to forget about PAS or its President, Abdul Hadi Awang, and try to work on the PAS grassroots directly to get their support. In short, cut out the middleman and go straight to the source.
The second largest political party in Malaysia after Umno is PAS. Umno has 3.5 million members while PAS officially has just over one million registered members. It is estimated that there are another half-a-million PAS supporters who have never signed up as registered members, especially amongst the 1.5 million or so government servants and those in the Malay heartland of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis.
It is now Pakatan Harapan and no longer Pribumi-Pakatan Harapan
DAP knows that without the PAS grassroots voting for Pakatan Harapan they will not be able to win more than 70 parliament seats in the next general election. Pakatan Harapan needs at least 112 seats to march into Putrajaya, but 125 to be safe (or else one crossover and Pakatan is sunk).
But just the PAS grassroots alone is not enough. That may be enough to increase the 70 seats to 90 or so. However, to get more than 112 seats it must also be with the votes of the Umno grassroots. And that means Mahathir’s Pribumi is very crucial in getting the additional 25 seats or so.
That was what Kit Siang and Mahathir discussed last Friday. With just PKR, DAP, Pribumi and PAN, the best they can expect is 70 seats. With the PAS grassroots voting for them it can increase to 90. With the Umno grassroots included it can go up to 115. Only then can Pakatan Harapan march into Putrajaya. And this means the common identity to replace PKR, DAP, Pribumi and PAN is very crucial.
However, in spite of all this there is still one ingredient missing. Over the last three years Mahathir and the opposition have been waging an Anti-Najib Campaign (ANC). The focus is Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Single-handedly Najib has screwed the country. To ‘Save Malaysia’ Najib has to be ousted and replaced.
And herein lies the problem. Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan did the same thing that Anwar Ibrahim and Barisan Alternatif did in 1999. In 1999 the focus was Mahathir. Save Malaysia by getting rid of Mahathir and by replacing him with Anwar Ibrahim, the saviour, the man who is going to change or reform Malaysia (hence the Reformasi Movement of 1999).
Anwar’s black eye was the issue they used against Mahathir just like 1MDB is the issue today against Najib
And in the 1999 general election the election posters all over Malaysia were mugshots of Anwar with that famous Black Eye. Anwar was the mascot and his black eye was the reason to kick out Mahathir and replace him with Anwar.
And it almost worked if not because of the Chinese voters who felt a strong economy was more important than justice, good governance, transparency, an end to abuse of power and corruption, and so on.
So, in 1999 it was very easy and very clear. Mahathir is bad. Anwar is good. So kick out Mahathir and replace him with Anwar. It was almost like a Trump-Clinton choice in America.
Today, however, it is not so easy and not so clear. Kick Najib out and replace him with…err…replace him with….err….Muhyiddin Yassin, Mukhriz Mahathir, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Azmin Ali, Lim Kit Siang, Mat Sabu…
Yes, in 1999 no confusion, Today, no confirmation. And this was the greatest blunder they made in 2014. They used Najib as the target. Najib was the bogeyman. They blamed everything on Najib. They said they just want Najib ousted to ‘Save Malaysia’. So now they need to tell the voters who is going to take over from Najib to save Malaysia. This is the downside of turning the election into an anti-Najib campaign.
They have already decided that to get more than 70 parliament seats they need to win over the PAS and Umno grassroots. Mahathir and Kit Siang said this last week. And that is why on Friday Mahathir and Kit Siang agreed that the way forward was a legally registered coalition with a common logo, flag and colours. That is Mahathir’s term and condition before he would agree for his Pribumi to join Pakatan Harapan.
Now that they have crossed that bridge to get to the other side they need to announce who the Chairman of the legally registered Pakatan Harapan is going to be. And this Chairman is the Prime Minister-in-waiting. He or she will be the person who will take over as Prime Minister once Najib is ousted.
In 1999 it was Anwar (the PM-in-waiting) versus Mahathir and today it is Mahathir (the PM-in-waiting) versus Najib
Mahathir and Kit Siang have agreed on Friday that the only candidate who would be able to win the support of the PAS and Umno grassroots would be Mahathir himself. If they want more than just 70 parliament seats and if they want at least 115 seats then Mahathir has to be touted as the next Prime Minister if Pakatan Harapan wins the coming general election.
So expect Pakatan Harapan to soon submit its registration to the Registrar of Societies with Mahathir as its Chairman. The voters are then going to be told to help save Malaysia by kicking Najib out and by replacing him with Mahathir as the new Prime Minister. Pakatan Harapan has no choice. Their rallying call for the last three years was ‘Save Malaysia’ by kicking out Najib. So now they need to tell the voters to kick out Najib and replace him with Mahathir. Short of that it will be no go.
Mahathir’s terms for Pribumi to join Pakatan Harapan is the coalition must be legally registered and he becomes its Chairman