Pundits: Failure to change Budget 2021 vote’s outcome shows Dr Mahathir, Ku Li’s influence waning

Yiswaree Palansamy
·4-min read
Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah are seen during a press conference at Yayasan Al Bukhary, Kuala Lumpur December 14, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah are seen during a press conference at Yayasan Al Bukhary, Kuala Lumpur December 14, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Despite their decades of experience in local politics, analysts believed that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and senior Umno MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah may now have little to offer in affecting the Malaysian political dynamic.

The political analysts polled said that the duo’s call for MPs to reject the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s Budget 2021 in its third reading vote and offer to assist a new government largely went ignored.

“On the positive side, their political experiences let them reach beyond political partisanship boundaries when they are willing to cooperate with any MPs. Especially in our political culture where political parties majorly define our political landscape instead of civil societies.

“However, their move to reject the Bill still failed to bring down Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and has shown that their influence, especially in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (which Dr Mahathir founded) and Umno (which Tengku Razaleigh is in) has corroded.

“They may destabilise Perikatan Nasional as a ruling party, but the ruling coalition also learns how to adapt and focus on negotiating to acquire consensus among MPs from other component parties to make sure that the Budget 2021 will pass,” Anis Anwar Suhaimi, a senior researcher at think tank O2 Malaysia said.

Anis said that more progressive and radical ideas are needed in the current state, adding that Dr Mahathir’s and Tengku Razaleigh’s “re-application of the old model from their time” might simply not work now.

Geostrategist Professor Azmi Hassan also shared Anis’ views, that the third reading of the Budget that went through “is sort of a nail in the coffin both for Dr M and Ku Li” in terms of their political journey.

Additionally, he suggested that the galvanising force that led Umno MPs to vote for the Budget despite some claiming to support Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, may have been the duo’s surprise joint press conference.

“It looks like Umno MPs turned up in nearly full force supporting the Bill and ironically, I think the factor that pushed Umno's support is due to the press conference by Dr Mahathir and Ku Li,” he said, referring to the latter’s moniker.

“It’s the end of the road for both of them, as when Dr Mahathir urged MPs to vote with their conscience, the 111 MPs did vote with their conscience, i.e. to put the nation first. To make matters worse, all Umno MPs except for Ku Li voted for the Bill.”

Azmi added that this meant that even Umno MPs did not buy Ku Li’s assertion of saving the country.

Universiti Putra Malaysia political analyst Prof Jayum Jawan said that it may be best for the two political titans to leave the country’s governance in the hands of younger political leaders, adding that the country must move past the duo.

“The time of Dr Mahathir and Ku Li are long gone. It is better for them to remain statesman-like and leave the governance to plenty of young Malay talents.

“They must learn to let go and have confidence that these young Malay and Malaysian talents can do much better than them,” Jayum said.

Jayum said that the duo’s recent public statements also showed that “they clearly are not in tune to the current vibes of Malays and Malaysians.”

Meanwhile, Universiti Sains Malaysia’s political analyst Prof Sivamurugan Pandian however felt that there is a dilemma regarding leadership ascension in the country’s politics, as to whether experienced ones are needed more than the young bloods.

However, he said that it is high time for young leaders to fight their way in, and upwards.

“Unless the young leaders are given the opportunity to lead, until then we will see senior leaders dominate the party.

“Our political arena is controlled by a few personalities and maybe its time for the young leaders to come out strongly and give a sense of leadership,” he said.

In the press conference, the senior statesmen alluded that the PN government may lose the vote and subsequently offered their expertise and experiences in public service to the possible new government.

Despite all the speculation and drama in the last few weeks, the Budget was still passed 111-108 in its third reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

Pakatan Harapan leaders have since called for a “reset” of the Opposition coalition, while some have been questioning whether Anwar should still lead the group after his failed gambit.

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