LAST_UPDATEThu, 24 May 2018 8am

He Might Be The 'Greatest Showman' But Mahathir Is Not The Future Of Malaysia

After a week of controversial headlines over his nomination as candidate for Prime Minister in the upcoming elections, the general consensus is clear.

There appears to be more naysayers than positive endorsements of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the prime minister designate of the opposition coalition. Is this just political spin or really what the grassroots are saying?

A political analyst in a recent commentary had likened Mahathir’s comeback attempt as the ‘Greatest Showman In Malaysian Politics’ in reference to the blockbuster Hollywood movie Now You See Me about a group of young illusionists who dazzle audiences with physically impossible magic stunts that defy time and space logically.

So does Mahathir really think he can pull it off the second time round and dazzle Malaysians all over again?

And since youth voters are considered a crucial segment to tip the results of the coming general election, Malaysian Digest conducted an informal poll to gauge the rakyat's acceptance of Mahathir as prime minister, the second time around.

A Dangerous Act Of "Misplaced Nostalgia"?

The opposition Pakatan coalition had announced that Mahathir’s candidacy was meant to bring in the Malay votes but would it be at the expense of youth votes?

The Election Commission (EC) noted in March 2017 that four million youths have not registered to vote. However, it is also alarming to know that there are youths who have registered but have decided and are calling others to not vote in this round of elections as a way to show their protest.

Has Mahathir's nomination galvanised the fence-sitters to action or driven them even further away?

Zul Harris, 25, is of the opinion that Mahathir has what it takes to help Malaysia progress to become a first world nation as he has the experience, influence and power.

“On the international scale, Malaysia will no longer be bullied or looked down upon since Mahathir still has the influence and power.

“On the local scale, Mahathir can help restore balance as this is his chance to right his wrongs – Malaysia will be a better country, because Mahathir knows what needs to be fixed,” he opined.

He added that while Mahathir is the reason why the current government is the way it is, he believes this will help Mahathir be better and wiser PM than he was before and that it would be interesting to see Najib having competition for the position.

Marissa sees Mahathir as a strong candidate for the opposition to champion their cause and thinks that his accolades and accomplishments as the fourth Prime Minister speak for his current candidacy.

“Mahathir was the reason why Malaysia is touted as an industrial country and is on the map.

“So I think his second stint as a Prime Minister will further catapult Malaysia on a global scale, especially when his prior achievements are a clear indication that he is a visionary and he has the necessary leadership skills to govern Malaysia,” said the 23-year-old, who believes that Malaysia will flourish again under Mahathir.

Mahathir is also thought to be bold and selfless by Yang Xi, 21, as she said that he could have just retired and enjoy his life but he willingly forego the luxury to fight for the people.

She also believes that it is a good idea that Mahathir is running for PM again as she sees it as his way of taking over the reins and steering Malaysia back on track to achieve Vision 2020 since we have been behind in achieving this goal.

“Malaysia will be on track to achieving Vision 2020 because as we all know, Mahathir shaped Malaysia to be a respectable and growing country under his 22-year rule.

“As for the ruling government, they will be in an awkward position as they have never lost the hot seat before,” she said.

However, this thinking of nostalgia was what UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin warned youths against and said that the opposition have misled people into thinking that the country was somehow better during Mahathir’s tenure as PM.

“I’m not saying that what happened during his time was bad ... but what I can’t accept are the ‘fairytales’ that are accepted by some of us today that during Dr Mahathir’s time, everything was perfect and beautiful.

“It’s not wrong to look up to a leader, but base it on objective analysis instead of emotions and myths,” Khairy said, during his speech, titled “Misplaced Nostalgia, False Hopes, Real Transformation", at the 2017 Umno general assembly in December last year, NST reports.

And although they might not have heard Khairy’s speech, some youths are of the same mind as they reject Mahathir’s attempt to reclaim his position that he left years ago.

Sarah disagrees with the decision as she sees impending doom awaiting the country in the event that Mahathir does win the election but sees the proceeding presently as a joke.

“Please don’t say his grandfatherly nature will serve him well if he is sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister as Malaysia – governing a country is not similar to being a grandfather, and if it were, Malaysia will burn and be spoilt rotten.

“He is also the root cause of corruption in Malaysia and I don’t believe that this is the way for him to right his wrongs.

“Although I am for the opposition, I am not for Mahathir simply because I desperately believe what Malaysia needs is an overhaul of politicians – out with the old, and let the younger ones lead Malaysia,” the 26-year-old passionately shared.

Pic: Al JazeeraPic: Al Jazeera

Illydia, 24, also shares the same belief that Mahathir opened the doors that welcomed corruption to take a hold on Malaysia, and thinks that this upcoming election is more of a power/influence test rather than the betterment of the country with Mahathir’s candidacy.

“I honestly dare not imagine what the outcome would be but I do wonder if Mahathir is the reason why the ruling government is corrupted (coupled with his series of controversies), what that would spell for Malaysia.

“I highly doubt that he would suddenly have an epiphany and seriously repent,” she said, while adding that there is a need for fresh and less emotional/vindictive leaders to represent Malaysia.

And disbelief was what Azrai, 25, expressed when he heard about Pakatan’s decision, which made him question Mahathir’s motive and purpose as he thinks that this is Mahathir being sneaky to make way for his son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, to become PM.

“I also disagree because I feel that he is not the best person to represent “a new Malaysia.” We are supposed to be progressing towards the future, and I think this move only takes a few step backwards.

“Yes, he has the experience – but it doesn’t mean he has the relevant insight and wisdom to guide Malaysia. Keep in mind, today’s younger voters are not similar to the younger voters during his time – things have changed, needs, priorities and etc have changed as well,” he said.

While the millennial voters we spoke to might not remember Mahathir as prime minister the first time around, his former party members in UMNO have vivid recollections of Mahathir when he called the shots in the party.

“This Is Not The Platform For Mahathir To Right His Wrongs"

A former BN-UMNO politician shared with Malaysian Digest her apprehension over Mahathir’s candidacy despite having served under Mahathir’s rule but has left the political scene in exchange for a quieter life.

“To have Mahathir as the opposition’s candidate for PM is a clear indication that our political scene is, unfortunately, ego and emotionally driven.

“It is no longer about the betterment of Malaysia, as in its current state, it is about proving who has more influence and power over Malaysians of all walks of life,” she shared.

Pic: AntaraposPic: Antarapos

Although she was formerly with BN and UMNO, she opines that it was a mistake for the Opposition to select Mahathir as their candidate.

“Yes, Malaysia was doing well under Mahathir. But upon retiring and since setting foot into politics once again, it opened plentiful cans of worms – this should already be an indication for Malaysians that although Malaysia flourished, it was at the cost of permitting corruption, thievery and etc.

“This is also not the platform for Mahathir to right his wrongs. He should instead, serve as an advisor for the Opposition and let the future generation learn from his mistakes, rather than permitting him to “undo” it by taking over as Prime Minister.

“Lastly, Malaysians should not forget how Mahathir was as a Prime Minister. I’m not saying that you need to hold a grudge against him, but rather use it as a reminder that perhaps he is not the future of Malaysia.

“This is for the position of Prime Minister, and while I am all for giving people the benefit of the doubt – that is not the risk that Malaysians should take,” she explained.

As such, she believes that the way forward for Malaysia and Malaysian politics is not having two men flexing their political influence and power, but a complete reshuffle.

“It’s time for the older politicians to bid adieu and welcome the younglings. If it was possible, Malaysia – its politics – should be given a fresh start to correct all the mistakes the older generations have made,” she said.

Mahathir has undeniably once again caused a stir in the Malaysian political scene with this prime ministerial candidacy but as opinions are divided, it seems that having an ageing and repeat candidate for prime minister was not the best decision that the Opposition could have come up with.

The Opposition Have Always Used Someone Who Left UMNO To Lead Their Coalition, Says Political Analyst

Mahathir’s rise to his current position is quite controversial as he initially created Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) to directly oppose Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak following his departure from UMNO.

In spite of the turbulent history that Mahathir has had with many of the opposition leaders, he was welcomed by Pakatan and was subsequently made Pakatan’s Chairman after PPBM joined the coalition.

Despite this recognition, his candidacy was not wholly welcomed within the coalition itself as Selangor PKR were disappointed they were not able to nominate one of their own for the position, especially PKR vice president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, and found it ‘awkward’ that they were unable to do so despite the party having been in politics for decades.

Compounding their disappointment is the fact that their most popular choice was not even nominated as the deputy prime minister candidate as Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, who has always been her husband's proxy, was named.

Beyond the internal conflict within Pakatan, loyal PKR members who supported the opposition following the 1998 Reformasi are now in an awkward position as they are saddled with someone who they oppose on principle but suddenly have to tolerate once again because of the cards that they have been dealt with.

The irony is not lost on Mahathir either, as he stood on stage on December 30, 2017 to offer an apology to opposition politicians that he used to criticise and have imprisoned.

“Like other human beings, I’m not alone in saying or doing wrong. Not just today, but for as long as I’ve been in politics.

“I apologise for all my past mistakes,” Mahathir said, wrapping up his speech at PPBM’s annual general meeting.

Whether his apology was enough to assuage the grievances and apprehension of opposition supporters and politicians is up to anyone’s guess but seeing that he was nominated a week after his public apology might be a good measuring stick, even though it was not a unanimous decision among grassroots leaders.

Mahathir is, after all, a savvy politician, which is why his candidacy did not surprise political analyst from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, as he said that Mahathir is Pakatan’s most realistic candidate.

Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian. Pic: NSTPProf Dr Sivamurugan Pandian. Pic: NSTP“Mahathir may be the right person to somehow accommodate the interest of PKR, DAP, PPBM, and PAN even though some were not happy with the selection because he was seen as the reason why Anwar is behind bars,” Sivamurugan said, while adding that those who were involved in Reformasi might continue to protest this decision.

He also thinks that we would be seeing the style we have seen during Mahathir’s 22 years as PM emerging again and he is not certain whether that is what the people are looking for.

“I also think that nominating Mahathir is a step backwards because many of us would want to see a young leader to lead because you’ve seen this phenomena happening globally where young leaders have emerged such as in Canada and France, so why not Malaysia?” he relayed.

However, he observed that Mahathir’s candidacy seems to adhere to a pattern where the opposition have always used someone who left UMNO to lead their coalition.

“Back in 1990, Semangat 46 was formed as a splinter party from UMNO, and it was led by Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

“And in 1999, most of those who left UMNO formed another splinter party known as Keadilan, which was led by Anwar before he was sent to prison.

“All those who left UMNO became the favourite to lead so we are seeing the same pattern now,” he explained.

Thus, Pakatan might have fallen back on this pattern and belief that even though Mahathir is old, they need someone from UMNO to replace UMNO although most of us think that he is too old for the position.

“It is now up to the people whether to vote rationally and practically, or emotionally.

“If they look at these patterns, they would become more rational but then many of us are emotionally attached to some political parties, so that’s why I think they accept any leaders,” he opined.

Regardless of Pakatan’s manoeuvring, Sivamurugan thinks that the outcome of the upcoming elections is going to be status quo and the political scenario could see changes depending on the number of seats won by Barisan Nasional and the opposition.

“If it is status quo then nothing much will change but then if Barisan Nasional’s majority decreases or if the opposition increases their seats from what they have now, then it will influence the political scenario.

“But I think that the Malaysian people will remain active in politics from the GE14 is held until the coming five years as well and that will not stop,” he said in conclusion.