The prospect of retirement appears to be out of the question for Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as he raised the possibility of making a comeback if newly appointed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration goes wrong.
The 94-year-old told Nikkei Asian Review in an interview on Thu (12 Mar) that retiring would be selfish, as he is still the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Langkawi and desires to remain so until the next general election.
“I cannot stand seeing a government that does something wrong,” said Dr Mahathir, adding: “I feel I have a duty to do something.”
“Even now, they are coming to see me,” he said, in reference to members of his political party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
“I tell them, look, I’m old, 94 years old, but they say they [don’t] see people with experience. I had experience as PM for many, many years [and] I learned something, so they think that I can resolve many of the problems,” he said.
While he is personally reluctant to run in the next general election due to his advanced age, Dr Mahathir said he would be willing to do so should Malaysians want him to.
“If you ask me, I don’t want to do it because by then I would be 98,” he said.
Touching on his resignation from the Prime Minister post at the end of last month, Dr Mahathir said that he harbours no regrets about doing so.
“Thinking about it now, I only did what was right when my own party didn’t agree with my views,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, as the interim PM at the time, previously said in a televised address on 26 Feb that his resignation was “a means to an end” — namely the country’s betterment.
He expressed his fear of the prospect of forming a government with Umno, a component party of the Barisan Nasional alliance that governed Malaysia for 61 years prior to its defeat to Pakatan Harapan in the 14th General Election in May 2018.
However, he said that he was willing to accept those who would leave Umno to join other political parties.
Dr Mahathir also said in the interview with Nikkei that he was disappointed by the wavering support of certain MPs from his side, who had opted to back either Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim or Mr Muhyiddin for the premiership post.
“Disappointed because they all practically swore and even signed statutory declarations saying that they supported me, but it’s all bluff,” he lamented.
Mr Muhyiddin was sworn-in as the nation’s eighth Prime Minister at the national palace, the Istana Negara on 1 Mar after a week of political turmoil plaguing the country.
His appointment as Prime Minister received royal assent from the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on 29 Feb, which the Istana Negara said was “in line with Article 40(2)(a) and Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution”.
Article 40(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s capacity to act according to his own discretion in appointing a prime minister, while Article 43(2)(a) provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s appointment of a Member of Parliament (MP) — who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of MPs — as the prime minister.
Former PM Mahathir Mohamad: Muhyiddin Yassin willing to work with kleptocrats, previously “promised not to cooperate with Umno”
Around two hours before Mr Muhyiddin’s swearing-in ceremony, Dr Mahathir told a press conference at the Albukhary Foundation in Kuala Lumpur that Mr Muhyiddin is not the right person to be sworn in, as Mr Muhyiddin allegedly did not command the support of the majority of the MPs in the Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament.
Dr Mahathir also said that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has refused to grant him audience to prove his position that the Pakatan Harapan coalition and himself both command the support of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat.
Earlier this month on 8 Mar, Dr Mahathir told reporters that he had received a letter from the new PM asking to meet him to resolve their political differences.
However, he said that he had “previously met” Mr Muhyiddin — who is also one of the founding members of Bersatu and a former cadre of Umno — and reiterated his refusal to work with Umno.
“I had promised not to work with Umno. Muhyiddin in the video clip also promised not to cooperate with Umno.
“However, he had [decided to] accept Umno, the biggest party in his government … His party only has six individuals [MPs], Umno has 51 [MPs],” said Dr Mahathir.
The former premier said that he “cannot make peace with accused persons charged in court for stealing billions of ringgit”.
“I said Umno members [can] enter Bersatu … I accept them on the condition that they leave Umno and join [Bersatu] on their own accord,” said Dr Mahathir.
“But Muhyiddin said he was willing to cooperate with such individuals. That is something that I cannot accept.”