So Harakahdaily reports that Mokhzani is following his Dad out of Umno. He reportedly made the announcement this morning.
The shrewd politician that he is, Mahathir probably has a few tricks up his sleeve. Scheming and scheming all the time…
I believe he is opting for a multi-prong strategy in his battle to unseat Abdullah and put in place a crony who would protect his interests before Anwar and his Pakatan boys can take over. The strategy would work at various levels.
From outside: By leaving Umno, Mahathir will be freer to step up his attacks against the current Umno leadership.
From below: Through his son Mukhriz, Mahathir now has a Trojan Horse inside Umno. Mukhriz has already shown that he will step up the pressure from below.
From the top: Razaleigh has already thrown down the gauntlet in his bid to challenge Abdullah for the Umno presidency. Will Mahathir now openly throw his backing behind his one-time archfoe in a bid to unseat Abdullah?
From the flanks: By leaving Umno, he is also providing another option for BN members thinking of defecting. They could now become Independent MPs in Parliament, who will be “kingmakers” in the sense that their numbers could be crucial in deciding who is going to form a new government. They would then be in a position to demand key positions in a new administration, whether it is BN or Pakatan.
Play up racial sentiments: Gone is all his rhetoric about Bangsa Malaysia. Now he is actively courting Malay support by manipulating base, primordial communal sentiments as he did in Johor a few days ago. He openly talked about Ketuanan Melayu and about the Malays losing their rights – pointing to Singapore and Hindraf as bogeymen!
It is no contradiction. Mahathir will do or say anything as long as it serves his own personal interests, as Wong Kok Keong writes in Aliran.
But Mahathir underestimates the Malays these days, many of whom can see through such language. The “market” for those willing to “buy” such rhetoric is rapidly shrinking, but that is not stopping him from whipping up sentiment among the hardcore remnants.
Watch this guy’s next move…
He is clearly petrified that Anwar will take over and open the books on the Mahathir years. The “Lingam Tape” Royal Commission of Inquiry recommendations jolted him and convinced him that he had to take decisive action now to ward off future threats to his “legacy”.
For example, look what happened to Malaysia Airlines in the 1990s. I was just talking to a former senior finance officer in Malaysia Airlines. He told me that in the mid-1990s, just a couple of years after Tajudin Ramli had taken over the helm from Dato Kamaruddin, who was seen as incorruptible, Malaysia Airlines had RM1.3 billion in cash reserves and they had no problem securing billions in loans, if necessary.
But within a few years, Malaysia Airlines was struggling even to pay staff salaries.
Where did all that money go?
If that wasn’t bad enough, the government bought back MAS shares from Tajudin at RM8 when the market value was around RM3.60. Where is Tajudin today? And where has Daim gone? How did Mahathir allow this to happen under his administration?
In Mahathir’s case, parting is such sweet sorrow… and rather protracted too! Here are the different stages of his farewell after 22 years in power:
2002 – Announces shock decision to quit
2003 – Steps down as PM
2007 – Fails to get elected as a delegate to Umno general assembly
2008 – Quits Umno. Now what?
This is a piece I wrote for Asia Times:
Fake farewell for Malaysia’s Mahathir
By Anil Netto
PENANG – Former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to quit the ruling United Malays Nasional Organization (UMNO) on Monday represents his strongest political protest yet against his hand-picked successor Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi – and perhaps his biggest gamble.
His high-stakes decision came after a royal commission of inquiry last week recommended that the former prime minister and a number of his associates face probes under various laws for suspected involvement in the fixing of appointments, promotions and removal of judges, including the sacking of six top judges in 1988, which critics claim permanently undermined the judiciary’s independence.