Trinna LeongMalaysia Correspondent
KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said that despite the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) recent losses in by-elections, it does not indicate the pact would lose the next general election.
“I do not think that Pakatan Harapan would be a one-term government,” Tun Dr Mahathir told reporters in the resort island of Langkawi on Monday (Jan 20).
“We lost in several by-elections. It does not mean we would lose the general election,” he said.
He was responding to a report by Reuters news agency citing his remarks as meaning that PH would no longer hold power by the next election.
Reuters had reported that Dr Mahathir cautioned the coalition would lose power if the pact’s leaders fail to change their ways.
PH has lost five out of 10 by-elections held since May 2018 when it wrested power away from Barisan National (BN), marking the country’s first change of government in its six-decade history.
Most recently, PH ally Parti Warisan Sabah lost the Kimanis by-election last weekend by a wider majority than the 2018 record. Its loss in Sabah was attributed to poor consistent communications to voters explaining a controversial migrant pass it is planning to push through that locals feared would pave the way for illegals to gain citizenship.
Dr Mahathir said the current government has a tougher job compared to its previous administrators since it has to do “cleanup” work.
“We have to clean up the administration, find money and pay debts… But Pakatan Harapan is now well known as not good at communicating,” lamented the Premier.
In a sign of frustration at increasing criticisms over the PH government’s performance, Dr Mahathir hinted that the electorate is hard to please with voters who are easily swayed.
“We have reached a stage now when people would kiss the hand of a thief and call him ‘Bossku’,” said Dr Mahathir, referencing former premier Najib Razak, who has rebranded himself since the 2018 elections and gained supporters with the “Bossku” tagline.
Najib is on trial for money laundering and corruption charges involving billions of dollars from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
“It looks like if bossku steals money people are okay with that. I do not understand how people can be influenced by someone who is facing trial for cheating, stealing money,” Dr Mahathir added.
“If these people want him to come back (into government) then go ahead, vote for him at the 15th general election but do not expect Pakatan Harapan to return and correct wrongs again,” he said.
Dr Mahathir says ruling coalition could be a one-term govt unless it stops infighting
LANGKAWI (Jan 20): Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday his ruling coalition could be a one-term government if it does not make changes and stop infighting.
Dr Mahathir led the Pakatan Harapan coalition, or Alliance of Hope, to a spectacular victory in a general election in May 2018, joining hands with former foes to end the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition.
But Dr Mahathir’s coalition has lost five by-elections since then, including one over the weekend, and polls have shown waning popularity among the public.
“We have lost five by-elections but they still don’t understand,” Dr Mahathir told reporters at a meeting in Langkawi, a resort island off the western coast of Malaysia.
“I told them in a democracy you need strong support from the people. But instead they fight amongst themselves and divide the people… They are not going to win unless they change their ways,” he said.
Dr Mahathir’s four-party coalition came to power on promises of reforms and widespread disgust over corruption. Former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was defeated by Dr Mahathir, was caught in the middle of a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB. Najib is currently on trial for corruption.
Nearly two years since the unexpected win, the government has been increasingly criticised for failing to deliver promised reforms on governance and human rights quickly and to protect the rights of the majority ethnic Malays.
There has also been uncertainty over Dr Mahathir’s promised handover of power to his coalition partner Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Dr Mahathir had said he would hand over the premiership to his former foe Anwar two years after winning the 2018 elections. But doubts have grown after Dr Mahathir said he needed more time to steer the heavily-indebted country out of its troubles first.
The 94-year-old premier reiterated on Monday he would give way to Anwar after November, when Kuala Lumpur will host world leaders for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, and before the coalition’s five-year term is completed in 2023.
But he again declined to commit to a specific timeline.
“When the time comes, I feel that I have done all I can, I will step down,” he said.
He added Anwar will need the support of the majority of the parliament to become the prime minister.
Dr Mahathir was Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister from 1981 to 2003, when he retired from politics. In 2018 when he again won office he became the world’s oldest leader aged 92.
On Monday, the premier also said Malaysia will not take retaliatory trade action against India over its boycott of palm oil purchases amid a political row between the two countries, adding Kuala Lumpur will find “ways and means” to resolve the issue.