Perhaps hinting at the need for him to respect the pre-electoral deal he made with Pakatan Harapan parties that he will only hold power for two years, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently said he is not able to work for long.
He said this was due to his age, refraining from entering into any controversies over the said agreement within the Pakatan government.
He said this on August 13 at the Prime Minister’s Department’s monthly assembly in Putrajaya.
Is this a message to his former protege Anwar Ibrahim to prepare for a take-over?
Anwar’s opponents, furious that Dr Mahathir will have to leave his post soon, are saying the former is pushing the old man to quit.
It is not the first time Dr Mahathir hinted on his early retirement, though at times, he teased the Pakatan leadership with controversial statements.
Analysts speaking to TISG said a pattern had emerged in Dr M’s speeches and interviews, which clearly shows the traits of an ageing man.
They agree that Dr M is toying with the crowds and is giving unnecessary hope to those who do not want Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister.
Yet, they said, it shows the pattern of an old man who is being pushed on one side to respect the deal he made before the May 9th poll and on the other side, there is his party members and supporters who are dreaming of another 10 years of Dr M in power.
“It is ridiculous to believe Dr M will risk breaking the coalition to serve the vested interest of some people at this stage in his career. But his age might betray him into submission to the blind supporters,” said an analyst.
But, if one knows Dr Mahathir, it will be clear the old fox is fishing for any form of dissent within the Pakatan to decide whether he should stay on beyond the two years framework or quit before that time frame.
With the PH leadership solidly behind him in his two years stint, there is little hope of a massive dissent when the time comes for Anwar to take the helm.
“Dr Mahathir knows that, as he is also aware that he is not the true ‘reformasi’ leader who should lead the PH for too long,” said another analyst, Cordoba Ali, who added that both Anwar and Dr M were not young anymore and there is no reason to believe that the PM will play Anwar out this time around.
Cordoba, a ‘reformasi’ writer since day one of the outbreak of the movement in Kuala Lumpur, is now retired but is an analyst on Malaysian affairs.
Known for his cynical remarks throughout his political career, Dr Mahathir is said to use ‘selective memory’ to test the waters, said Cordoba.
In the case of his early retirement, he has played around with phrases like “If the people want me to stay longer, I will,” knowing that this will create a stir among Pakatan parties like the PKR and DAP.
However, it is Prime-Minister-in-waiting, Anwar Ibrahim’s responses to Dr Mahathir’s inconclusive statements that have irked many in the Prime Minister’s party, in particular, but also among some Pakatan supporters.
The former jail-bird said he was confident Dr Mahathir will keep his promise and that he decided to stay in the background to allow the PM to carry on his clean-up mission after the Najib Razak’s mess.
Afterall, it is a 20-year-old mess that happened thanks to Dr M’s firing of Anwar in 1998 that gave rise to Najib as PM with all the ills the former leader is accused of, said Cordoba to TISG.
Cordoba said if Dr M wanted to remain as PM beyond the two-year frame, he will need to get the majority support in a democratic vote within the PH which will be virtually impossible.
He did not want to elaborate further on why Dr M might lose a vote if the PH were to come to that conclusion in two years time, but said that Dr M is fully aware of his limitations this time around.