Many hurdles ahead for Mahathir, says veteran politician Tengku Razaleigh

Malaysian veteran leader Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said that political parties that win an election through gaining the highest number of seats but not the popular vote do not have the moral right to lead. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

SHAH ALAM (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad faces many hurdles as the prime ministerial candidate for the opposition, said veteran leader Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

"If his party wins the majority of seats in the election then his name can be put forward to be prime minister if the opposition wins.

"If another opposition party wins big, however, Dr Mahathir is unlikely to get the full support he needs from coalition members, then again I do not know how they function," he said at a press conference at the G25 public forum "Reforms for a Progressive Malaysia" on Saturday (Jan 27).

Dr Mahathir, 92, was earlier this month named the opposition coalition's choice for prime minister if it wins in the country's next general election, expected to be held within months.

On another matter, Tengku Razaleigh said he remained unsure if he would contest the upcoming general election.

"It depends on whether I can still walk by then," he said jokingly when asked by reporters.

The 81-year-old former Finance Minister was first elected to parliament in 1969 and has held the Gua Musang (formerly Ulu Kelantan) parliamentary seat ever since.

At the forum, the veteran Umno leader also said that political parties that win an election through gaining the highest number of seats but not the popular vote do not have the moral right to lead.

He said that there were two elements in the right to lead in a constitutional democracy.

"The first is the physical right. For instance, a political party must win a fairly contested election to govern a country.

"Should that election be run on the principle of victory as reflected by being first past the post, then a political grouping without a majority of popular votes but having the majority of elected seats will be on a sticky wicket.

"This would amount to a lack of moral right to lead, and the moral right is the second element to leadership rights," he said in his keynote address at the forum.

Tengku Razaleigh noted that more often than not, moral right to leadership was often dismissed in democracies that were less mature.

"A morally upright leader would have strong moral high ground as his leadership base. Once that ground is lost, the right to remain in office becomes ticklish.

"In this age of social media, this loss of right would be made known and spread around in a swift manner and in no uncertain terms," he said.

Tengku Razaleigh also raised the possibility that the general election could result in a hung Parliament where neither the ruling nor the opposition coalition gains an outright majority of seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

"I should like to mention that in my discussions and exchanges with friends and acquaintances, not a few have alluded to the possibility of a hung Parliament," he said, as quoted by news site The Malaysian Insight.

"This would mean that the voters are neither for returning the government of the day to office nor giving power to the coalition offering the alternative.

"This would mean that the voters want a non-divisive government, comprising all the political stakeholders, to be formed. This, if you will, is essentially a national unity government," he said.

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