KUALA LUMPUR — Jan. 10, 2018: A commentator and analyst has described as laughable the notion that choosing a nonagenarian former prime minister to head the opposition Pakatan Harapan represents change.
According to Sholto Byrnes, a senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, this in fact is a regressive move that reflects poorly on the opposition.
Pakatan has named former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as its candidate for the same all over again, after Mahathir had first ruled for 22 years until 2003.
In a commentary published earlier in The National, an English language daily in Abu Dhabi, Byrnes said the decision reflected poorly on the opposition’s confidence, not only in its younger cadres but also in those who had always opposed the Barisan Nasional (BN) governing coalition which had never lost power since independence.
Paradoxically to Byrnes, Mahathir’s appearance at the head of the opposition pact was actually a testament to how strong a position Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had built over the last two and half years.
He said the loose pact, now effectively helmed by two leaders from 20 years ago is now trying to hide them behind a facade of Malay politicians to win the crucial votes of the majority Malays.
“But their new alliance is incoherent, with politicians having entirely contradictory records on matters of civil liberties and free speech, for instance – and, worse, deceitful ones, claiming the goods and services tax that the current government has introduced could be removed, with no real plans for how they would replace the vital revenue,” he said.
On January 7, Pakatan Harapan announced Mahathir, who is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman, as its candidate for prime minister and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as his deputy if the pact wins the 14th general elections due this year.
Byrnes said Mahathir’s nonagenarian status, which would make the latter the world’s oldest leader if elected at the age of 92, puts him on par with Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old former president Robert Mugabe.
“Opposition columnists have ludicrously compared Malaysia, much praised by the World Bank, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other international bodies for its current government’s reforms, prudent economic stewardship and excellent growth, with Zimbabwe,” he commented.
“It deserves a better opposition. And there’s a certain 92-year-old who deserves the gratitude of his people for services past – but also a retirement he has put off for far too long,” remarked Byrnes. — Bernama