PETALING JAYA • Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's former prime minister, is likely to contest in the upcoming general election, a top official of his party has said.
The 92-year old politician is expected to stand in the federal parliamentary seat of Langkawi that encompasses Malaysia's most popular tourist island, or in Putrajaya, the country's seat of government.
Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, vice-president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), said: "I think Dr Mahathir will offer himself as a candidate, as he is the torch bearer for us."
He told The Star in an interview: "According to all the talk, there is a big possibility he will contest in Langkawi, although he has also been asked to stand in Putrajaya." This was the first public indication from the party that Dr Mahathir will be fielded.
Malaysia's 14th general election, due by August next year, is expected to be held in the next six months.
The Langkawi ward has always been held by an Umno politician representing the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, since it was created in 1995.
But its 31,000-plus mostly Malay voters are thought by PPBM officials to be very supportive of Dr Mahathir, who turned the sleepy island into an international tourist destination when he was prime minister for 22 years until 2003.
Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital, has the country's smallest parliamentary constituency with just 14,300 voters in the 2013 elections. The voters who live there are mostly civil servants and their families.
The seat was created in 2004 and its MP is Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
PPBM officials have said privately that getting Dr Mahathir to contest the Putrajaya seat would send a strong signal to voters that the opposition is serious about taking over the country by putting its top leader to contest there, though he would face a tough fight to persuade pro-BN civil servants.
PPBM was formed just over a year ago by Dr Mahathir and several other former Umno leaders, including former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, following a bitter fallout over state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad involving Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Dr Mahathir is chairman of PPBM, a member of the four-party opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), that he also leads.
PPBM has only one seat in Parliament today and two state seats. It thus needs to vastly expand the number of wards under its control at the next polls to show it has a wide support base.
The party's only Parliament seat now is held by Tan Sri Muhyiddin in Johor.
Its two state seats are in Kedah, held by Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz, and in Johor, held by Mr Muhyiddin's former political secretary Shahruddin Md Salleh.
Mr Abdul Rashid said in the interview that PPBM is expected to contest more than 38 Parliament seats.
"This is more than what the DAP (opposition Democratic Action Party) won in the last general election. We have no choice, as we are the lead party in Pakatan in terms of wooing Malay support.
"We also consider ourselves the leader in terms of getting public support for the opposition," he added.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK