Pearl Lee

Interview:  Why did Mahathir lose election so badly?

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“For the first time in Malaysia’s history we are facing a hung parliament,” Pearl Lee, Managing Editor of Kuala Lumpur-based news website, Twentytwo13 told Sri Lanka Guardian in an exclusive interaction from the capital of the Country. With the outcoming of this election, “Malaysia will see a 4th pm being sworn into office in 5 years. Another unprecedented thing in the nation’s history.”

“None of the coalition parties, especially the main three, namely – Barisan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional managed to secure a simple majority (112 from the 220 contested Parliamentary seats) to form the government,” she said.

According to Pearl, “The 15th General Election also saw Barisan Nasional’s worst-ever performance. Barisan Nasional is the country’s longest-serving political ruling coalition.”

“It is now up to the main coalition parties (mainly Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional) to present to Malaysia’s King that they are able to form alliances with the other smaller coalition to form the next government,” she added.

“This is the first time in the country’s history that a unity government will be set up. The national palace or Istana Negara had today given the coalition parties a large number of seats to present their alliance and name their prime minister candidate by 2 pm on Monday (Nov 21, 2022). If all goes well, the King could possibly announce the name of Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister by tomorrow evening,” she further observed.

While talking about the worse-ever defeat of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the modern father of nation-building in Malaysia, 53 years of his undefeated political journey, Pearl said that “Dr Mahathir Mohamad set up Pejuang in 2020 (after he resigned from his previous party, Bersatu and as Prime Minister for the second time). Pejuang lost all the seats that it contested in this general election (115 parliamentary seats). Even his son Mukhriz, who is Pejuang’s president, lost. Dr Mahathir contested in Langkawi while his son, Mukhriz, (a former chief minister of Kedah and federal cabinet minister) contested the Jerlun seat; both in their home state of Kedah.”

Why he lost this election, according to Pearl, because his newly established political party “is fairly a new party. It’s also a sign that the people are tired of his narrative, that every other coalition is wrong, and only his is right.”

“For the record, Dr Mahathir’s coalition (made up of smaller parties) is called Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) but it did not contest under that name in the election as Dr Mahathir claims the authorities have refused to register the coalition. As such, GTA contested under Pejuang’s logo,” she added.

However, when we asked about the significant challenges that the winning party is going to face, she says that “the challenge right now is who is willing to work with who, and this will be resolved once the King makes an announcement on the matter (earliest possibly tomorrow evening).”

“What lies ahead will be interesting to watch, as two coalition governments had to be set up following Dr Mahathir’s resignation in 2020. The nation saw Muhyiddin and later Ismail Sabri (of Barisan Nasional) being sworn in as the 8th and 9th prime minister respectively within a short period. Muhyiddin served 18 months as prime minister while Ismail Sabri served barely over a year as PM. The collapse of Muhyiddin’s coalition in 2021, was due to Barisan Nasional pulling out its support,” she added.

“The leader of the new alliance that will be formed now must ensure it can obtain continuous support from political parties that will form part of its alliance. But this could very well translate into a bloated cabinet line-up in order to please all parties. They would also have to convince the people how they plan to work with parties that they previously regard/openly declared as foes,” she further observed.