How Mahathir’s political astute could help Singapore’s crowded opposition landscape

Mahathir met Anwar and this turned the political situation upside down in Malaysia

The return of Mahathir Mohamad to politics, notwithstanding his entry in the arena among his former political foes in the opposition, has all the attributes of a shifu.

The doctor is back to rock the ruling coalition headed by PM Najib Razak and the old man of 92 is not in the game to play second fiddle.

With a stroke of genius – the former PM who imposed Najib as the prime minister of Malaysia after he berated Abdullah Badawi as the ‘sleeping PM’ – has effectively killed Najib’s plans to turn the Chinese spectre in his favour.

While Malaysia’s politics is a different ball game compared to Singapore, both countries share the same political history. That is both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and the People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled without interruption since the two nation became independent.

But there is one thing they had in common until the formation of the Pakatan Rakyat in Malaysia ahead of the 2008 elections: that is the division of the opposition into various political formations.

However, the first thing the Singapore opposition has to learn from the Malaysian opposition is to secure the services of an iconic figure. This element alone has ensured the Malaysian opposition additional support in the recent elections.

The Malaysian opposition depended largely on Anwar Ibrahim, the former Minister of Finance and Deputy Minister of Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad in the 2008 and 2013 elections.

The presence of Anwar galvanised the opposition troops, rallying the massive crowds in political conventions and street corners never seen in Malaysia since the country’s independence.

The same opposition won the popular vote – for the first time in the electoral history of Malaysia – but came short of winning sufficient seats to capture the Parliament.

With Anwar Ibrahim in jail, the opposition successfully rallied Mahathir, a retired political figure of the ruling Malay party the Umno despite massive criticism from various quarters.

But what the critics of Mahathir failed to see was that without Mahathir’s efforts, his skills and the overall respect the Malays, in particular, have for the old fox, the opposition Pakatan Harapan would not have been able to broker a deal that might derail the Barisan Nasional (BN) in some of their safe seats in peninsula Malaysia.

Mahathir unites the opposition

Mahathir brought back the lost unity among the opposition parties, getting them to sit down and focus on the real issue at stake: that is the removal of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Which clearly means that winning or not winning the upcoming elections, the opposition will fight to the last ballot cast with the objective of getting Najib out.

Mahathir gathered the divided opposition – which was as divided as that of Singapore with a number of priorities not shared by all of the forces at play – to narrow down their struggle.

Instead of campaigning almost solely for the release of Anwar Ibrahim from jail, the PKR was made to understand that the battle had to be about removing Najib, the most unpopular Prime Minister in Malaysian history.

Mahathir then got the opposition pact to move on to the next big headache for the Pakatan Harapan: the seat allocation.

The opposition could have done better in the 2013 elections had it got it right in its seat allocation. In 2013, the PKR – which was the leading opposition party during the electoral campaigns thanks to Anwar’s captivating presence on the podium – ended up with 32 seats, eight short of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) which snatched most of the urban seats in peninsula Malaysia.

Thus Mahathir got the Pakatan to forge an agreement on the thorny issue of seat allocation at a very early stage of the pre-election process. This was not seen before in the opposition.

Destroying Umno’s focus on DAP

Under the agreement, Mahathir’s Bersatu Party will get 52 Parliamentary seats in Peninsula Malaysia, while the PKR will have 51 seats, the DAP 35 and Amanah 27.

Given the complexity of the Malaysian electorate and the fear of the Malays that the Chinese would take control of the country if the Umno is weeded out of power, the seat allocation is sensible as it quashes those fears.

This was possible only thanks to Mahathir’s stature and negotiation skills. It would not have been easy for Anwar alone to strike such a deal with DAP, for instance.

The Umno’s and BN’s electoral campaign were being prepared on this singular element: The number of seats the DAP will win and how this would undermine Malay power in the country and in the Parliament.

With this single element, Mahathir destroyed Najib’s ploy to focus his entire campaign on the power of the DAP and the number of seats the DAP could win in the Parliament.


    • Both DAP and PPBM is not approved by ROS cause of not following ROS’s instruction. Because of this Pakatan Harapan has not been approved to contest in this 14 GE. Only left PKR and Amanah but PKR is not split into 2 cause of Mahathir being in the Opp. The hardcore PKR supporters are not buying with Mahathir at all. Amanah is a weak party. Might be Najib’s blessing instead you know.

    • Johor will not fall to the Opp la cause now only left with the hardcore Malays kampung seats that is UMNO. Mahathir’s party is seen as traitorous by the Johor Malays cause Mahathir himself has offended the Sultan of Johor. They also know that DAP came from Singapore and won’t support them.

    • Gamo Ticon 2 times they went and do their 2 CEC elections, 2 times they went and cheat. 1st can say cause of excel mistakes and now what they can say. Just say the whole party belong to the Lims la and nobody can take it la. Melaka DAP is already going to be finished. Their members have left them lol. Their Melaka MP has resigned and be an independent MP in parliament lol. They have blocked so many of their grassroots’ vote le and the grassroots went and make a formal complain to ROS. whahahh might be kena BAN by ROS for DAP this time around sia.

    • Gamo Ticon Whom they want to kid sia. For more than 20 years they have made the Chinese to hate Mahathir to the core and have told them to reject him as Anti Chinese and such but now they went and cleanses Mahathir as the saviour of the Chinese??? Lol No wonder so many Chinese in Malaysia are confused now.

    • I am am Singaporean living in Johore and I have to agree with you. But when you say Singaporeans you have to be very very clear who they are and where did the originate from. Singapore citizenship population grew by more the 100% and where do you think these people to kow tow the ruling party came from? They were given priority housing over native Singaporeans, loans and grants in exchange for their votes. So where did they come from. Look at YIshun, Jurong and Punggol and you find them there.