At 95, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad isn’t yet done with politics.
The veteran politician, who had returned to power in 2018 but lasted only 22 months, is not giving up fight against what he said was a return of corrupt practices and a rollback of reforms under his successor, Muhyiddin Yassin.
In August, Mahathir formed the Pejuang (Fighters) party, months after his reformist government was ousted in a political coup and he was sacked from his own party.
He told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that Malaysia’s governing coalition isn’t likely to call for early elections due to political infighting and foresees his new ethnic Malay party to be the powerbroker in the next polls.
“We will not form a government by ourselves … we are the third party. We believe that we are not very big but we are big enough to play a middleman role in the country,” the two-time prime minister said.
Mahathir said he believed that neither Muhyiddin’s new coalition nor the opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim can obtain more than 50 per cent of votes.
If Pejuang can win just 30 seats, it can be the kingmaker and will then decide which side it will support, he said.
Mahathir quit in protest in late February after Muhyiddin pulled their Bersatu party out of the ruling alliance to form a Malay-centric government with the opposition. It included the party of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is on trial on multiple graft charges.
But Muhyiddin’s government is shaky with only a slim two-seat majority in Parliament and he faces pressure from his allies to call for early elections.
Mahathir said Muhyiddin is likely to try to hold on until 2023 rather than seeking snap polls. His Bersatu is dwarfed by Najib’s party, which will want to reclaim the premiership after the polls, he said.
Parties in Muhyiddin’s coalition are divided and “he is not so confident of calling for elections now unless he wants to commit suicide,” Mahathir said.
He warned an election win for Muhyiddin’s government would be a disaster for Malaysia’s growth and development. Awani