Mukhriz back in Kedah Menteri Besar's post

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad giving a press conference yesterday at Yayasan Albukhary in Kuala Lumpur with Pakatan Harapan leaders (from left) Anthony Loke, Mohamad Sabu, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Guan Eng and Saifuddin Abdullah. Dr Mahathir's son Mukhri
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad giving a press conference yesterday at Yayasan Albukhary in Kuala Lumpur with Pakatan Harapan leaders (from left) Anthony Loke, Mohamad Sabu, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Guan Eng and Saifuddin Abdullah. Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz said returning as Kedah Menteri Besar was a "very unusual situation to be in". He had been forced to step down in 2016. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad giving a press conference yesterday at Yayasan Albukhary in Kuala Lumpur with Pakatan Harapan leaders (from left) Anthony Loke, Mohamad Sabu, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Lim Guan Eng and Saifuddin Abdullah. Dr Mahathir's son Mukhri
Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir was sworn in yesterday.

Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir has been sworn in as Kedah Menteri Besar once more, following the green light from the palace for being the "solid bloc that counts" after Wednesday's general election.

He had an audience with Sultan Sallehuddin Badlishah of Kedah yesterday, a day later than scheduled.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition led by new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Mukhriz's father, won 18 of the 36 state assembly seats, leading to a hung assembly. Speculation was rife of defections from other parties, which Mr Mukhriz denied.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has 15 state assemblymen, while Barisan Nasional (BN) led by former prime minister Najib Razak has three.

Mr Mukhriz said while PH is open to the possibility of assemblymen switching over, "we are not desperate", he said. "We have a solid bloc of 18, in this case the solid bloc is the one that counts," he told reporters.

The palace in Kedah had also considered its "direct links with the federal government", he said, adding: "The party that we have here is the same party that is ruling Putrajaya, so it is in the best interest of Kedah not to have an opposition government."

"If we have an opposition government, as happened before, then you are not going to get much support from the federal government, so it is better for Kedah this way," he said.

In 2008, the opposition alliance led by PAS captured the northern Malay state, but residents had complained of slow development and returned the state to BN in the 2013 election.

Mr Mukhriz, 53, acknowledged Kedah has a divided government with a split seat assembly, but "it is not a minority government".

Mr Mukhriz was forced to step down as Kedah Menteri Besar in February 2016 - after only 30 months in office - for allegedly failing to govern well and strengthen Umno, the main party in BN. He was later sacked from the party.

He had always maintained that he was booted out over his criticisms of national policies, including the scandal-hit state fund 1MDB.

Yesterday, he told reporters that returning to take up the post again is a "very unusual situation to be in", but it was "a God-given opportunity" to complete some of the tasks he had set out to do and make "much-needed changes" to the state. These include water supply issues and projects like the Bukit Kayu Hitam special economic zone, which he noted was planned during his time as Menteri Besar and which his new government will implement.

"I am back," he told a room packed with journalists and supporters, to laughter. He added: "It is somewhat surreal but at the same time, it seems like a natural thing to do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'Mukhriz back in Kedah Menteri Besar's post'. Print Edition | Subscribe