Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s meteoric comeback in Malaysian politics is second to none in modern history.
But his return as the head of a reformist government does not augur well for many. In particular for the fallen ex-PM Najib Razak and the collectivity that kowtowed behind him and also for many others.
In 2008, when de-facto PKR leader, Anwar Ibrahim made his historic comeback, Mahathir was in the BN camp. All the while, Mahathir was fighting against the reformist movement.
The nonagenarian has since then embraced Anwar’s reform agenda, leading the opposition to the massive victory on May 9.
But what did it take to get Mahathir on board the reformist movement?
In 1999, the Barisan Nasional fought for its life in a nail-biting battle in the elections. That year saw the rise of the Barisan Alternatif (precursor to the Pakatan Harapan) as a formidable opposition machinery.
In that election, Mahathir’s coalition grabbed 148 seats but with a reduced percentage. There was an 8.7% vote swing against BN and an increase of 7.4% swing for the opposition parties.
The Barisan Alternatif won 42 seats in Parliament. They were composed of the PAS (27), DAP (10) and PKR (5).
The 2014 elections were a mixture of the 1999 and 2008 elections.
In 2008 a massive percentage of Chinese and Indians voted for Anwar’s opposition group. In 1999, the Malays were the biggest supporter of the opposition which garnered 40% of national votes. But the Chinese and the Indians were colder towards Anwar’s reform agenda.
During his tenure as PM and after his resignation in 2003, Mahathir was well known for his pro-Malay stance. He was categorised as a Malay nationalist by some (including the writer), and he aligned himself with some pro-Malay groups in the process.
But the constant fall of support for the BN and the actions of Najib Razak from 2009 onwards alerted Mahathir.
However, in the shadows of the 1MDB scandal and Mahathir’s constant attacks on Najib squandering the country’s wealth, reformists had their eyes on Mahathir.
The idea of a reform agenda for Malaysia with Tun Mahathir as a supporter did not come with Najib’s rejecting Mahathir’s counsel.
It came through various channels, many people who talked to the Mahathir’s.
In the end, Mahathir’s daughter Marina Mahathir has a lot to rejoice since his father came to the fore of the reform agenda.
Nevertheless, did Mahathir abandon the policies that are so close to his heart, that is the Malay agenda?
For Mahathir to have broken his silence when he walked into the courtroom to meet Anwar Ibrahim, it must have taken a lot of determination.
That is the determination to move on with the failed Malay protectionist policies that Mahathir himself now says have benefited the few rich ones.
When Mahathir met Anwar, some analysts with the right instincts said that was the end for Najib Razak. They told TISG that when Mahathir decides something, he does not do it lightly.
That meant to say his embracing of the reform agenda and of the opposition was for real.
They said that Mahathir was a changed man. They believed he is like the father who had decided to abandon the bad and ugly son to bring back the prolific boy he abandoned in the past.
But in the first place, it is not that Mahathir is not altruistic to the fate of Malaysia.
It is his deep and entrenched love for his country that primarily brought him to join the Anwaristas in the fight to dislodge Najib.
By the same token, this will come at a heavy price for those who think the same old policies under the first Mahathir era is still applicable.
Mahathir is today the man on a mission. That is to eradicate the country of the all the ills done by the Najib regime. It is a real twist of fate indeed that Mahathir is to achieve this mission. Najib wanted to erase Mahathir from the country’s history.
And this is where Najib’s strategy went haywire. He was not ripe to take on Mahathir.
Yet with all the cash stashed in his upmarket apartment and the government machinery on his side, he still failed to uproot Mahathir.
When Najib resorted to empty slogans that were designed to hide a master Machiavelic plan, he was en route to total failure.
He became cannon fodder to the old foe who was by then surrounded by an army of Malaysians eager to bring the beloved leader back to power.
Has Mahathir really changed? Mahathir gave the answer himself.
In one of the pre-election promo video, millions wept listening to the old political animal lamenting about the little time left for him to fix Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir will not betray their tears, no, not at this age!
He is the first reformist Prime Minister of Malaysia.
He has all the reasons to go the distance and achieve the goals he has set.