PETALING JAYA: Political observers have placed their money on former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the best person to topple Najib Razak in the 14th general election (GE14).
The 92-year-old statesman was recently named Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) interim prime minister should the opposition sweep to victory in the next polls.
Although Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan yesterday scoffed at the proposal, saying the opposition lacked “fresh blood” in its leadership, observers told Channel NewsAsia (CNA) they believed the PH chairman is the best man for the job.
PPBM supreme council member Kadir Jasin said over the past year, Mahathir had become “the rallying point for the opposition”.
Kadir, who is a close associate of Mahathir, added that the public believed the former prime minister was the only one who could challenge Najib.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan meanwhile told CNA that Mahathir had a good chance of winning if he contests in Langkawi.
“Voters there still remember him as the person who helped the island grow. And he is generally popular in Kedah too,” Wan Saiful was quoted as saying.
“I can understand if the opposition wants to use Mahathir as a strategy to win the Malay votes. Because Mahathir might just be able to do that for PH.”
Pacific Research Center principal adviser Oh Ei Sun warned however that Mahathir would fare badly if he contested in Putrajaya as civil servants are dependant on the ruling government.
Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years, was Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister.
In June, he said it was possible that he would become prime minister again if PH wins in GE14, but that this would only be for a short period of time.
“If there is no candidate… I might try, only on condition that everybody agrees,” the Nikkei Asian Review quoted him as saying.
During the PH retreat last weekend, the coalition also named PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its candidate for deputy prime minister.
GE14, which must be held by August 2018, is widely expected to be called after Chinese New Year.
PPBM youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman told CNA that they wanted to see Mahathir contesting “one last time, to symbolise his final struggle, an attempt to correct past mistakes and liberate Malaysia once and for all from Umno’s hegemony”.
“Mahathir is Umno’s biggest enemy as he can swing the Malay electorate which are Umno’s fortresses,” he added.
First published in freemalaysiatoday.com on December 6, 2017.