KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has indicated he might contest the next general election in the federal constituency of Putrajaya, a move that would make it the most closely watched electoral fight.
The symbolically important seat represents Malaysia's administrative capital, with some 16,000 registered voters, most of them Malay civil servants and their families.
The vote in the constituency is often regarded as representing the leanings of Malaysia's 1.4 million Malay civil servants. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has won the ward in the three elections since it was carved out from Sepang constituency in 2004.
The Free Malaysia Today news site reported that Tun Dr Mahathir, when asked last Wednesday to comment on a suggestion that he should contest the seat, answered: "Yes, I might contest in Putrajaya."
Dr Mahathir was responding to a suggestion by opposition leader Husam Musa, who stood as a candidate for Parti Islam SeMalaysia in Putrajaya and lost in 2013.
The seat is held by Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who said yesterday that he was confident civil servants will continue to back BN.
"As the people's representative, I feel like a family member to the voters," he told reporters.
16k Number of registered voters in the federal constituency of Putrajaya.
Dr Mahathir was the grand architect behind Putrajaya - which used to be oil palm estates in the 1990s - as the government wanted to move out of then capital Kuala Lumpur, with its traffic-clogged roads and high land costs.
Putrajaya was then part of Selangor and was known as Perang Besar (Big War) district - a reference to the land's opening by the British in 1918 at the end of World War I, which was known in Malay as Perang Besar.
Putrajaya, with Kuala Lumpur and the financial island of Labuan, today form the three federal territories that are administered directly by the central government.
Dr Mahathir now leads the opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and the four-party opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan. Though 92, he remains sprightly and has been going around Malaysia to campaign against Prime Minister Najib Razak and the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Dr Mahathir's last contest was in the 1999 general election, and he passed the prime minister's post to Tun Abdullah Badawi in 2003 before stepping down.
PPBM officials are hoping that the former premier would contest in his home state of Kedah to boost the party and his son Mukhriz Mahathir in the north.
There have also been whispers in the opposition camp that Dr Mahathir might contest in Datuk Seri Najib's Pekan constituency in Pahang, in a do-or-die battle to put the 1MDB scandal at the centre of the election, which must be called by August next year.