Malaysia's Mahathir mulls over forming new party as Umno adviser says Najib and Zahid should step aside

Dr Mahathir Mohamad said even if he ultimately decided not to run for the polls, he would play a prominent role in the election campaign. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Senior Malaysian politicians are staking the ground amid the drumbeat of expectations that a snap general election could be held in the coming months.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has again said that he might form a new political party should the court throw out his appeal on Aug 7 to continue as a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which he co-founded with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

And meanwhile, influential Umno adviser and veteran MP Razaleigh Hamzah said both former premier Najib Razak and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are "cacat" (defective) candidates who should "make way for others" if they want the party to do well at the polls. Both Najib and Zahid are facing a raft of corruption charges.

Tun Dr Mahathir, 95, has said that even if he ultimately decided not to run in the polls, he would play a prominent role in the election campaign.

Malaysia's 15th general election is not due until 2023 but political instability brought about by the slim majority held in Parliament by Perikatan Nasional (PN), which came to power four months ago, has led to expectations that polls could be held as early as this year.

"If I am 98 years old (in 2023) when they have the elections, obviously there are physical constraints, but if I am well, I will give every support possible, " Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying by Channel News Asia on Wednesday (July 22).

He had previously floated the idea of forming a new party, and there are also suggestions that he join an existing political party.

"If we are expelled from the party, we have to consider having another party," he told CNA.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court has fixed Aug 7 for the decision on an application by Bersatu president Muhyiddin and three others to strike out a suit by Dr Mahathir and four other people, The Star reported.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin and the trio are seeking to strike out the legal challenge against the removal of Dr Mahathir and four other members from Bersatu.

Meanwhile, Tengku Razaleigh in an interview with the just-relaunched Utusan Malaysia newspaper said both Najib and Zahid - both 67 years old - should make "sacrifices" so that the party would do well at the coming national polls.

"If they love and care for the Malays and the future of their own party, then sacrifices must be made by those with defective characteristics from the public's view. Or else, we won't go anywhere," Tengku Razaleigh, 83.

"Only a short while of one term, five years."

Asked by Utusan what he meant by making sacrifices, he said: "Make way for others. I don't know how, whether they want to contest (the election) or not, but sacrifices must be made if they love the Malays, as they always say in Umno. They give priority to the needs of the party."

Najib is facing a slew of graft charges linked to the 1MDB state fund, and Zahid with charges linked to his family's foundation.

There have been suggestions in Umno that as ex-president Najib and current president Zahid cannot be named as the party's candidate for prime ministership due to the graft charges, Tengku Razaleigh's name should be forwarded instead.

Tengku Razaleigh, a prince from Kelantan state, was Malaysia's former finance minister, and also served as international trade and industry minister.

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