Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a highly anticipated appearance in Port Dickson on Monday, 8 October 2018 to publicly support Anwar Ibrahim at a mega campaign rally for the upcoming by-election scheduled for 13 October 2018. His presence was accompanied by other leaders of the parties that make up the Pakatan Harapan coalition such as Lim Guan Eng (Secretary-General of DAP), Mat Sabu (President, AMANAH), Wan Azizah (former president of PKR) as well as other senior members of the said political parties. In Malaysia, it is not common for sitting Prime Ministers to campaign for candidates during a by-election.
Mahathir had arrived at the venue of the rally to a huge crowd who cheered loudly upon seeing the elder statesman. The audience had gathered at the location early to witness the historical moment when two of Malaysia’s political heavyweights, Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad would share a stage for the first time in almost 20 years.
Anwar Ibrahim, the president-elect of PKR is currently staging his official comeback to the Malaysian parliament by contesting in the Port Dickson by-election, a parliament seat which had been vacated on 12 September 2018 when its previous member of parliament, Danyal Balagopal Abdullah resigned from his post. Anwar Ibrahim had been prevented from standing as a candidate during the previous 14th General Elections due to his prison sentence. The King had then given him a full royal pardon on 16 May 2018, making him a free man and eligible to contest.
In his speech, Anwar Ibrahim who is a seasoned orator, openly declared to the massive crowd present of his love and loyalty for his former mentor and rival Mahathir whom he regarded as a father and a leader. And although he had once fought against Mahathir, he sincerely acknowledged that Mahathir was the person best suited to lead the country. His sentiments about the Prime Minister was met with great applause by the people present who were very happy to see the two leaders working together.
When it came to the Prime Minister’s turn at the podium, the 93 year old leader began by sharing how happy he was to be able to join forces with the other political parties within the Pakatan Harapan coalition to campaign for Anwar Ibrahim. His speech which was delivered in Bahasa Malaysia, went on to talk about his current’s government’s people-centred policies. Mahathir also reminded the crowd of the sacrifices the leaders of the different political parties within Pakatan Harapan had made, including himself, to put aside their personal differences in order to unite and finally defeat the Barisan Nasional-led government of Najib Razak in the 9 May 2018 general elections.
Anwar Ibrahim’s return to parliament is crucial to the Pakatan Harapan coalition government as he had been promised to the Malaysian people during the 14th General Elections as the successor to Mahathir Mohamad for the position Prime Minister. Thus Mahathir’s direct and public support of Anwar Ibrahim in Port Dickson provides assurance to the Malaysian people that the alliance stands solid and very much united despite many rumours of a rift and rivalries. Previously Daim Zainuddin, former Finance Minister who is a well known staunch ally of Mahathir and Chairman of the Council of Elder Persons had joined Anwar Ibrahim during his campaign rounds on 6 October.
It must be noted that both Daim and Mahathir command a significant percentage of the Malay votes which would be decisive in securing an election victory with a comfortable majority for Anwar Ibrahim. As he is Prime Minister-designate and highly tipped to win, an election victory must be accompanied by a big majority to deliver Anwar Ibrahim a clear mandate to lead.