Will Mahathir's 'I did it my way' work in Johor polls?

04 Mar 2022 07:00am
Dr Mahathir Mohamad led-Pejuang makes a debut in Johor polls.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad led-Pejuang makes a debut in Johor polls.

SHAH ALAM: The show has begun with Dr Mahathir Mohamad attacking Najib Razak, labelling him an "idiot" as the battle for Johor polls heats up within three Malay parties - Umno, Bersatu and Pejuang.

In his first press conference in Johor despite doctors' advice to stay away from the campaign trail, as the country reports a surge in Covid-19 cases, and this may pose a risk to the nonagenarian, he is right in the heart of it again.

Known not to mince his words, Mahathir started the campaign trail attacking Najib over the country's outstanding 1MDB debt of RM38.81 billion, as of Dec 31, according to the finance ministry. The Malaysian government has paid RM13.3 billion on 1MDB's debt so far.

His comments come as his party, Pejuang is contesting 42 out of 56 seats.

Umno is going into the polls as the favourites as analysts predict victory for the biggest Malay party while others remain the underdog, even more so for Pejuang as Mahathir is unpopular in Johor.

His popularity is more at the federal level, especially at the northern side of the country, says Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara senior fellow for strategic research.

"But not in Johor. There have not been good vibes between Johoreans and Mahathir for years.

"He has had encounters with the State Palace before," he told Sinar Daily, referring to the war of words between Mahathir and the State Palace over the powers of a constitutional monarch.
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The row had escalated in 2019 when Mahathir called Johor Crown Prince Tuanku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim "a little boy".

This is not the first time the public has witnessed the bad blood between Mahathir and Johor royals. It stretches back to the 90s when he had removed immunities enjoyed by Rulers following an episode of assault.

Due to this, Azmi says Mahathir may not be able to attract Johor voters who have seen the public exchange of words between the two parties.

He said Pejuang needs to use different tactics and not rely on the Mahathir factor.

There may still be a lot of fence-sitters, especially after automatic voter registration was implemented by the Election Commission recently, and these voters may not have made up their mind who to vote yet.

He said Pejuang could entice these group to come out to vote.

Stating Najib is seen as the "rockstar" at the moment with voters surrounding him "wherever he goes" but Azmi says it is not known if they are hardcore Najib supporters or fence-sitters.

"If they are hardcore supporters then perhaps nothing has changed and the fence-sitters may be on the lookout for new parties," he said.

As Pejuang candidates hope for the Mahathir factor to kick in to help them garner votes, the party needs to look beyond Mahathir.

Mahathir may be synonymous with Frank Sinatra's hit 'My Way', even singing on YouTube and being greeted in Japan with the rendition, and never having to be lonely at the top during his 22-years in office after winning a two-thirds majority in general elections but in Johor, he may have to acknowledge that his party's debut in Johor may not go his way.

There is always another chance at GE15.