PUTRAJAYA • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition needed to identify what caused its defeat in the Semenyih by-election, even as he admitted that the pact between opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) was one of the possible reasons for the loss.
"We need to find out why we lost," The Star reported Tun Dr Mahathir as saying, a day after an Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition candidate defeated the PH candidate in the Semenyih state constituency in Selangor.
Umno's Mr Zakaria Hanafi, 58, last Saturday polled 19,780 votes against the 17,866 garnered by Mr Muhammad Aiman Zainali, 30, from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which is headed by Dr Mahathir and is a member of the PH coalition.
Dr Mahathir said the rivalry between Umno and PAS had previously helped PH to wrest the seat away from Umno for the first time at last May's general election.
But Dr Mahathir was sceptical that the Umno-PAS cooperation strategy would work in a general election.
"They can work together for by-elections, because a win or a loss is not important," he said.
"But for the general election, they cannot work together. If they do, PAS will be left with nothing," he said, according to Malaysiakini.
Asked whether PH's failure to fulfil its campaign promises had played a part in the Semenyih defeat, Dr Mahathir said his new government needed time to work on delivering its promises, given the country's RM1 trillion (S$333 billion) debt.
"We want to fulfil the promises, but it cannot be done overnight. It takes a long time," he said.
Fellow PH leader Anwar Ibrahim echoed Dr Mahathir's comments yesterday, saying the people needed to give the PH government time to execute its programmes, The Star reported.
Datuk Seri Anwar, the president of PH member Parti Keadilan Rakyat, said the ruling coalition could not defend the seat as it had yet to execute some of the programmes it had pledged.
"The outcome surely gives us a message on the people's sentiments, especially the Malays," said Mr Anwar.