The Asian Voice

Will Mahathir still need Pakatan?: Sin Chew Daily columnist

In a photo taken on Dec 17, 2019, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during the signing ceremony for Bandar Malaysia in Putrajaya. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) suffers yet another major blow, this time in Kimanis.

Five consecutive by-election defeats, if happening elsewhere in the world, should have given the prime minister a good reason to bow out, or put the government's future at grave risk.

In countries running on the Westminster parliamentary system like the UK and Australia, this appears to be the norm; not even Margaret Thatcher could be spared because the future of the party and government should come before any leader.

But the same is not going to happen to our Dr Mahathir.

On the surface, he appeared relaxed, arguing that the voters had yet to see the good side of the government.

Many PH supporters shook their heads hearing this. The voters may not even see the good things the government has done before the next general elections!

But don't we ever underestimate Dr Mahathir nor judge his intent using the PH vs Barisan Nasional (BN) mentality.

While the whole world is still awaiting his reactions, out of the blue we were confronted by a picture posted online of him sharing some light moments at the dining table with Malaysian Islamic Party's (PAS) Hadi Awang.

By his side were Siti Hasmah and confidant Khairuddin, while accompanying Hadi at the dinner was Terengganu MB Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, the brain of PAS.

Outsiders have little idea what they were discussing, but anyone can tell for sure Mahathir was in contact with PAS!

PAS was his biggest foe when Dr Mahathir was the country's fourth prime minister, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's (PPBM) major rival in the last general elections.

But today, when Dr Mahathir is facing powerful public outcry and pressure from within the ruling coalition, the Islamic party suddenly becomes his most useful ally, a panacea to extend the PM's political life.

While PH leaders and supporters are dead worried about the coalition losing the next general elections, this is not what Mahathir would bother.

To him, whether PH will still be in power is something that will only happen three years later, and he doesn't seem to be the least bothered.

He is more worried about a possible internal plot from PH to take him out this May, and his plan is to continue serving as PM well after 2020.

Dr Mahathir is facing much bigger pressure from within, having lost five consecutive by-elections.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's camp has a much more convincing reason now to pressurise him to hand over the baton sooner than later, while some PH leaders may join in the chorus for fear of becoming one-term government.

If this eventually happens, he will need both the support of pro-Mahathir MPs from within PH and Umno-PAS alliance to safely cross the hurdle.

We all know this. It is not anything novel at all.

But, Mahathir may even have a bigger plan. PH is only a part, not all, of his world!

When PH is no longer able to provide him the required political resources, he should find a new source of political energy in Umno-PAS.

Mahathir's biggest worry is his failure to secure the support of the mainstream Malay society.

In reality, the Malays are distancing themselves from him, and this trend will stay for as long as he is still with PH.

Just as senior journalist Johan Jaafar wrote in his recent article Why DAP (Democratic Action Party) is a liability to PH, "Malay leaders within the PH government are beginning to believe that DAP is a liability to the coalition."

In a different way, if Mahathir mends his relationship with PAS or even work or tie up with the party, he will be able to change the Malay society's perception of him through PAS.

PAS will then become a medium to catalyze his relationship with Umno. A PPBM-Umno-PAS tie-up should command the lion's share of the Malay electorate's support.

With this new triumvirate, Mahathir can as well brush aside Anwar Ibrahim. He will not only be able to sail past 2020 but through to the 15th general elections.

Will he still need PH at that time?

The author is an opinion columnist with the paper. The paper is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media titles.

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