The hammering Pakatan Harapan suffered in the Tanjung Piai by-election yesterday ought to be the perfect antidote to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s hubris, the pride that goes before a fall.
BN’s crushing margin of victory leaves the PM with no room to weasel out of the reality that the vote was a referendum on his leadership.
The Malay dignity issue, of which Mahathir recently seemed so concerned with, has boomeranged with a biting edge on Harapan’s supremo: Does he now have the grace to recognise the writing on the wall, that he’s a liability to the ruling coalition and has to go, pronto?
In other words, does he have the dignity to yield – the premiership of the country – gracefully what he no longer has the legitimacy to retain?
In just a matter of 18 months, he has discovered the truth of what one poet has warned, that “as quickly as the laurel grows, it withers quicker than the rose”.
Dr M’s rapid declension from admired saviour of Malaysia to reviled betrayer of the promise of reform contained in the Harapan manifesto of change which was seen as endorsed by the majority of the Malaysian people who had voted for the coalition at GE14.
The widespread disappointment felt by the same people who had voted for change grew throughout what can now be viewed as a corridor of infamy that began in June this year.
This passage started with the disconcerting khat issue and continued with Mahathir’s prevarications over the egregious Zakir Naik affair, which was worsened by the crassness of PM’s presence and some startling things he said at the Malay Dignity Congress, followed by the government’s improbably dumb handling of the LTTE imbroglio.
His claim at the September meetings of the annual United Nations general assembly in New York that India had invaded Kashmir, a patently unsustainable statement, reflected this continuing attenuation from the salt and sane in domestic and international affairs.
Looking back, it is incredible he could not see that this concatenation of issues and events would undermine belief in his rationality.
Instead of slaying the dragons of crisis, steeling the moral resolve of the people, and moving the country forward, he became a parody of his worst self during his first stint as prime minister.
Yesterday’s stinging defeat for Harapan in the Tanjung Piai by-election is a welcome antidote to Mahathir’s hubristic ride of recent months.
The Harapan presidential leadership cohort must give short shrift to any “buts” and “ifs” that a supercilious Mahathir would be wont to proffer in mitigation of his responsibility for the coalition’s defeat.
Truth to tell, the very people who were amazed and energised by Mahathir’s leadership of the Harapan coalition that succeeded in ending BN’s 61-year rule of the country are now keen to see him out the door.
That is the meaning of the vote at Tanjung Piai. There’s no fudging the electoral verdict: Dr M has to go and soon, too.
Prior to the vote, few could and were willing to tell him he had metamorphosed from a figure of admiration to an object of loathing – such was the standing he had enjoyed for his leadership of the effort to unseat a BN regime whose kleptocracy had become a global phenomenon.
The fact he had pulled off the extraordinary political tour de force of BN’s defeat in GE14 at an age when ordinary mortals would be in their dotage heightened his stature.
Many felt as Mahathir’s second stint as PM began in May 2018 that they are witnesses to a rare occasion when history offers leaders the chance to atone for past errors, to be remembered for a grand retrieval more than a litany of previous misdeeds.
The mistakes of his first 22-year stint (1981-2003) as prime minister, over which he was not contrite but which helped incubate the kleptocracy the BN had become under Najib Razak, receded in retrospective significance.
The gratitude felt over his accomplishment of unseating BN had the effect of diminishing the salience of his misdeeds.
People can forgive a lot when rescued by the same person who had initially caused their travail.
However, they are not inclined to condone someone whom they think ought to know better but does worse. – Malaysiakini