Power play in Kedah the latest in string of such battles

Kedah's ongoing leadership poser should reach a conclusion soon now that the palace has stepped in to verify who - embattled incumbent chief minister Mukhriz Mahathir or those waiting to succeed him - has the support of the majority of the state's assemblymen.

But the "rice bowl" state in the north - home to former prime ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman, the nation's founding father, and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, its longest-serving leader - is no stranger to power battles.

While Dr Mahathir had 22 years in charge of the nation, his son Datuk Seri Mukhriz's time as Kedah chief minister is likely to end in less than three years and see him join a host of predecessors who failed to entrench themselves.

The state's fifth chief minister, Syed Nahar Syed Shahabuddin, stepped down in 1985 after seven years in power after he was secretly filmed dressed as Mexican character Montoya del Monte at a party hosted by the Kedah Shooting Association. The act did not go down well in the conservative state and, under pressure from the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), he offered to step down.

Tan Sri Osman Aroff took over and became the state's longest-serving chief minister until 1996, when Dr Mahathir replaced him with loyalist Tan Sri Sanusi Junid.

Ironically, while both Datuk Syed Nahar and Mr Osman were forced out by their party Umno for being political liabilities, it was Mr Sanusi who presided over what was considered a huge electoral defeat in 1999. He lost a third of the state seats after decades of nearly complete control of Kedah by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, headed by Umno.

This led to Mr Sanusi resigning and handing the reins to Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain, who died soon after the 2004 elections. In 2008, PAS stormed into power and the party's Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak led the state, but he soon became sickly. Infighting within Kedah PAS during Mr Azizan's illness was widely seen as leading to BN reclaiming the state in 2013.

Ironically, Kedah Umno was not keen on Mr Mukhriz helming the state government. But it conceded to Umno president and Prime Minister Najib Razak's wish to appease the influential Dr Mahathir, who was instrumental in Datuk Seri Najib's ascent to power. Now that ties between Mr Najib and Dr Mahathir have soured, it would seem that Kedah's powerbrokers are happy to switch allegiances yet again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Power play in Kedah the latest in string of such battles'. Print Edition | Subscribe