The Asian Voice

Mahathir on the warpath: The Star columnist

In her commentary, the writer says that Dr Mahathir has also been on a "fishing trip", casting his line at Perikatan Nasional MPs with the hope of bringing them onboard.

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a news conference in Putrajaya on May 18, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is on the warpath. He has been going at Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's government on an almost daily basis, and he seems even more angry than when he was trying to topple Najib Razak.

The former prime minister has his charismatic and witty side, but his longevity in politics has been due to his killer instinct, and this dark side of his personality is currently on full display in his mission to unseat yet another prime minister.

"It's the fighter in him. His aim is to make it difficult for the government in true opposition fashion, " said Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Tian Chua.

Dr Mahathir has also been on a "fishing trip", casting his line at Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs with the hope of bringing them onboard.

It is understood that several Bersatu MPs, including a number of deputy ministers, have been approached by the Dr Mahathir camp to cross over.

They have been promised, among other things, a promotion to full minister, but none has taken the bait yet.

The "fishing trip" is, of course, to gather the numbers needed for Dr Mahathir's motion of no confidence in Muhyiddin's leadership.

He does not need to catch a boatful of fish. The opposition side reportedly has 108 MPs, and Dr Mahathir only needs a few more fish for his motion to succeed in the 222-seat Parliament.

He seems unaffected by what the King said in Parliament, which was widely read as a sort of reproach, as well as an affirmation that Dr Mahathir's resignation as prime minister led to the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

He is also unfazed at going against another sitting Prime Minister and the awesome powers of incumbency that comes with that position.

"Mahathir's stand is that this is not a legitimate government. I think the motion of no confidence is his way to set the record straight, " said Tian Chua.

Dr Mahathir, said a senior Bersatu figure, is perfectly correct to insist that it is the right of every MP to move a motion in Parliament.

"He feels he has been betrayed by someone close to him. The disappointment is so deep, he thinks he has the right to unseat Mr Muhyiddin.

"But the timing is less than perfect," said the Bersatu figure.

People simply do not have the appetite for another round of political upheaval and uncertainty.

"It all goes back to his resignation. The thinking out there is that we gave you a second chance to lead, and you blew it by resigning from out of the blue.

"The priority of most people at this point in time is not politics but to find jobs and put food on the table, " said political commentator Dr Azmi Omar.

He said the former premier is trying to rally support and repeat what he did in the run-up to the 2018 general election.

An angry Dr Mahathir is a dangerous Dr Mahathir, but so much has changed, and Dr Mahathir is fighting from a weakened position.

He is no longer leading Pakatan. That role has been taken over by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Mr Muhyiddin has the upper hand and he seems to be taking a leaf from the Dr Mahathir playbook - Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir's government in Kedah has fallen, the Registrar of Societies has deemed that Dr Mahathir is no longer the party chairman and the Mahathir camp is facing possible expulsion from Bersatu.

The elder statesman is not only fighting Mr Muhyiddin. He is up against a wall of Malay sentiment that has built up like a protective shield around Mr Muhyiddin's government.

The Malay-dominated Perikatan government has been criticised for not reflecting the ethnic composition of Malaysia, but it has overwhelming support from the Malay base.

"We have not been able to perform Friday prayers for so many weeks, yet we accept the government's decision. It is a sign that this government has the confidence of the Malays, " said Dr Azmi.

The non-Malays, on the other hand, are unsure what to make of Dr Mahathir. They took a leap of faith in him but they feel he has let them down.

Dr Mahathir should also not assume that all the MPs from PKR will support his motion. Some of them hinted that they have been told the party does not support Dr Mahathir's motion.

They are against Mr Muhyiddin's government but they are also against any development that will propel Dr Mahathir into a leading role in Pakatan.

"We are very clear about toppling the government and we are working on the numbers.

"But the dynamics in Pakatan have changed and PKR is determined to honour the agreement regarding the post of Prime Minister," said PKR information chief and Hang Tuah Jaya MP Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar.

One of the takeaways from Monday's Parliament sitting is that Mr Muhyiddin's government has only 114 seats. It is a precariously thin majority that will give the Prime Minister a headache each time Parliament convenes.

Dr Mahathir has warned that even if he fails in his motion of no confidence, every Bill that comes before Parliament will be a test of numbers.

He is a seasoned politician and he knows that playing politics in these difficult times will not go down well with the people.

But Dr Mahathir has never been into being popular. He will be on war mode and he will also be busy "fishing" from now until Parliament meets again in July.

The writer is a columnist with The Star. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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