Name Dr M as prime ministerial candidate


(Updated )

COMMENT | I don’t normally like to talk about big issues such as the state of the opposition, because my detractors will be quick to say: “He is not a leader of the opposition. What does he know?”

Since I am writing on my own blog, who cares. If you don’t like it, you can lump it.

Both the Barisan Nasional and the opposition have changed their alliances since GE13. PAS is now working with Umno, and the opposition has Bersatu and Amanah in place of PAS. GE14 is no replica of GE13.

The Umno-PAS alliance will be a powerful one. They can annihilate the opposition. While Umno embraces PAS with fervour (and vice-versa) and the leaders of Umno are hugging and kissing Abdul Hadi Awang’s hands, the opposition are still contented to do a war dance about their PM candidate.

Yesterday, a Bersatu leader started getting readers to cast their vote on their preferred PM, and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s name was not even listed. Obviously, he belongs to Muhyddin Yassin’s faction in Bersatu.

While the new BN with PAS is united - and it has Najib Abdul Razak as an undisputed leader who can decide big issues very quickly, such as introducing Act 355 - the new Pakatan alliance dare not even announce the PM in waiting.

Organisationally, Pakatan Harapan does not inspire confidence. It has a presidential council, with Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as chairperson. They have advisers and there are lots of positions on the chart, but it does not have the most important position: the candidate for prime minister.

Maybe they want you to infer and deduce, that since Najib chairs the BN council and he is PM, so Wan Azizah will be PM if the opposition wins. Looks like Bersatu and many others are not accepting that inference.

If Pakatan does, in fact, have a candidate, its leaders aren’t telling us. This is mind-boggling. It shows that even at the most basic level, they dare not make decisions. Have they ever openly discussed the most obvious question, which is who is the one amongst them, that can optimise the opposition chances of winning the election?

Who is the one most attractive to the Felda settlers who control the 54 parliamentary seats; a question that can be easily answered. If it is Wan Azizah as PM, then make it explicit, if it is Muhyiddin or Azmin Ali, say so. What‘s so difficult?

Guessing who will be PM is not what we want

This is not the kind of political alliance that can gain the confidence of voters. Guessing who will be PM is not what we want when we go into battle in GE14.

For me, to have a realistic chance of winning GE14, there is only one small opportunity for the opposition: Mahathir as leader might just do the trick. To do this, Pakatan members must swallow their pride, knock some sense into their heads and persuade Mahathir to be the prime minister of the new government.

Why do you think Najib and the whole BN propaganda machine are going on and on about the Chinese taking over the country and that Lim Kit Siang is the real “power behind the throne”? It’s because we have not been able to counter the BN propaganda satisfactorily. Telling the Malays that Lim is not interested in being PM does not address their concerns.

What if Najib can convince the Malays that Lim “does somehow control” the PM-designate? That’s their concern. Instead, we should be telling Umno Malays and Najib, that because we have Mahathir as PM, it’s unlikely someone else can remote control him. That’s what the Malays want to hear.

Only Mahathir versus Najib battle cry can energise the nation, like no other. Only Mahathir versus Najib can convince Malays, especially Felda Malays, that changing an Umno government is feasible. If this does not happen, the opposition will still be the opposition for many years to come.

People forget that elections in this country are in the main decided by Felda Malays and those in rural areas. If you don’t address this issue, you will lose again.

Some of you who want to see change and meaningful reform in this country are suspicious of Mahathir. Will he give us freedom and equality? Will he be fair to all Malaysians? I think he will - but it does not really matter as long as he can unseat the BN for us. He is after all 92, for God’s sake. The leaders whom you trust can continue the work.

You must learn one thing: it will take many elections for us to realise all the things that we want. It will take many political convulsions before we can have a proper democracy and re-establish the rule of law in Malaysia, if at all.

Good governance and ethical leadership

Good governance and ethical leadership will materialise over time, not immediately, after Pakatan Harapan takes power. After the French Revolution, for example, it took 50 years of civil strife, Napoleon Bonaparte and the restoration of the monarchy, albeit for short period, before the country settled down and France achieved some semblance of liberty, fraternity and equality.

Likewise in Iran, it took some 30 years after the Khomeini revolution before Iranians were able to have an orderly and peaceful administration in the country.

In Malaysia, we have not even experienced our first peaceful change of government yet. We have no experience of what it will be like to unseat Umno. Is it possible to do it without violence?

We don’t want the violence that has beset Indonesia and the Philippines. We don’t want the military to come in to rule as it does in Thailand - and yet in our elections, we don’t know if the military will intervene if there is a change of government. We don’t know if the Malay Rulers will somehow get involved. Many things we don’t know.

Getting Umno out of power is more than just vote-counting. It’s more than just holding ceramah and relying on nostalgia and shouts of “reformasi”. We need a leader who can assure “the deep state” - those who have the power to effect a change of government peacefully - to support us.

For this, we obviously need Mahathir to lead us. There is no one else more appropriate to lead us to the first transfer of power from Umno.

Why can’t the so-called reformists and opposition leaders make another sacrifice and accept that this election is an extension of another Umno fight and that it is better for us to back the faction that supports us? Give Bersatu its fair share of seats, make Mahathir our candidate for PM and make Umno members fight amongst themselves. That’s the only window we have to win.

Some of you will say: what about so-and-so who has made a lot of sacrifices? My response is that we all make sacrifices - but that’s what sacrifice is about. You do not need to be rewarded or remembered. The ultimate goal of taking the BN out of the picture should be reward enough for our sacrifices.

If we are still in the mode where we believe that some people must be rewarded for their sacrifices and that someone’s proxy must be in the leadership for reasons of nostalgia and sentiment, then I am afraid we will not be able to win this time around. On all battlefronts, objectives are always limited and specific: victory is all about achieving limited objectives, step by step.

Will Pakatan Harapan continue to believe that it has what it takes to win power with Wan Azizah, or anyone in the leadership council as the prime minister? Pakatan isn’t short of confidence, as always, and so it probably thinks that it can do precisely that.

For what it’s worth, however, I say to them: “Here is a 92-year-old man who works the hardest amongst the aspirants for PM and who commands the respect of many. This is what matters for our victory, so bite the bullet, give the respect due to him, and declare him your candidate for prime minister.”


ZAID IBRAHIM is a former law minister. This article was first published on Zaid Ibrahim’s blog.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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