Leaders of Malaysia's main opposition alliance made a pitch for change at a rally in Johor yesterday, presenting an unrattled front a day after their chairman's party was temporarily deregistered.
"The four opposition parties that have not been allowed to join forces will still fight together this election," said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) was ordered to halt its activities by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) over discrepancies in its paperwork.
The ROS has yet to register Pakatan Harapan (PH) as a formal coalition, citing the irregularities.
Last night, Dr Mahathir announced to a 3,500-strong crowd that the four-party coalition would contest under the logo of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Hours after Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that Parliament would be dissolved today, Dr Mahathir and fellow PH chiefs turned up in force in Johor, a stronghold of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition where they hope to make a dent.
"Johor is an important state, a frontline state," said former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who urged Johoreans to turn their backs on BN. "This general election is our last shot for change."
PH unfurled a laundry list of promises for the state, such as a new university, government scholarships, 200,000 job opportunities and improvements to public transport.
Johor is set for a fierce battle, and PH hopes to capture at least 10 more seats, riding on what it sees as a wave of anger over rising costs and declining support for BN.
Last month, it made its opening gambit in the state, naming Democratic Action Party star Liew Chin Tong as its candidate in Malay-majority Ayer Hitam. Yesterday, the alliance, which includes moderate Islamic party Amanah, introduced five candidates for seats in southern Johor.
PH leaders also taunted the ROS move, charging that Datuk Seri Najib and his coalition were intimidated by their alliance.
"Together as Pakatan, we have become so strong that Najib is no longer confident of winning," said Dr Mahathir. "We do not accept the rejection. That is why tonight, I am still wearing a PPBM shirt. I want to tell Najib, come catch me. Catch all of us here!"
Dr Mahathir, prime minister from 1981 to 2003, broke ranks with Mr Najib and quit Umno two years ago after his calls for it to ditch its leader over a graft scandal fell flat.
The PKR logo he will adopt - two white crescents on a blue background, resembling an eye - is a symbol of the black eye Anwar received when he was beaten by Dr Mahathir's then police chief on the night of his arrest in 1998. He had been sacked as deputy prime minister by Dr Mahathir, sparking two decades of rivalry between the pair - and many raised eyebrows when both men decided to join forces.