IT was a hunky-dory day for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
There was a clarion call for him to be named as the prime minister candidate for the Opposition coalition.
Almost every speaker who took part in the debate at Parti Pribumi’s first AGM wanted him for the top post.
The man who had led Malaysia for 22 years is ready for another go at it at the ripe old age of 92.
The support was unanimous and as his son and deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir put it, their chairman is eminently qualified for the job.
There has not been a dull day in Malaysian politics ever since Dr Mahathir launched his comeback. He truly deserves the Newsmaker of the Year title accorded to him by an online news portal.
The die has been cast and now comes the tough part. Can Parti Pribumi persuade all of its partners in Pakatan Harapan to come along?
Party leaders were initially apprehensive about holding an AGM because only 137 divisions have been set up to date.
But everything went smoothly and the AGM provided the perfect staging point for the party to propose Dr Mahathir for the coveted job.
It is a signal that the party, which is a mini version of Umno, means to be a big thorn in Umno’s side in the general election.
Strategically speaking, the party led by the prime minister candidate will have the clout in negotiating seats to contest in the general election and provide the X-factor.
Dr Mahathir has good and bad days and yesterday was one of the better ones because his voice sounded strong and steady although a trifle hoarse.
It is not easy being a new party in a crowded field. There is no track record to speak of and the video on their chairman Dr Mahathir largely showcased past glories like the Proton Saga, the glittering Twin Towers and the role he had played on the global stage during his years at the top.
There was even a clip showing Dr Mahathir and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim before it all fell apart for the pair.
As the party’s Kedah information chief Datuk Azimi Daim joked, even the party colour is similar apart from “the flower”, referring to the party logo.
There was also no shortage of enthusiasm from the delegates who cheered and clapped at everything.
The combined ages of the party’s top three may be more than 200 but the majority of delegates were people in their 30s and 40s.
It will be uphill for Parti Pribumi even with Dr Mahathir as the prime minister candidate but many of those in the hall genuinely believe their party is on the way to replacing Umno or, as their president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin put it, to “save Malaysia”.
Delegates from their two frontline states, Johor and Kedah, were placed on the front rows to signal the party’s ambitions in the general election.
The stakes are high for the party. It needs to make its mark or it may not last beyond the next general election.
Muhyiddin has a rather wooden personality but the orator in him emerges when on stage. His ceramah-style speech was aimed at motivating the delegates and loaded with accusations of kleptocracy and corruption.
He pledged loyalty to Dr Mahathir on behalf of the party where he is still playing second fiddle.
But who can blame him? Dr Mahathir is the only person who can bring the delegates to their feet, shouting “Hidup Tun!”.
Dr Mahathir is like the sun that outshines everyone and anyone who tries to outshine him gets scorched.
The party has pinned its hopes squarely on the former premier’s charisma and clout.
The fact that he is 92 does not in the least bother them. They also do not care what people say about his past deeds.
Dr Mahathir’s speech stood out for his proposals for an independent judiciary if Pakatan is voted to power and he stressed the importance of separation of powers between the legislative, executive and judiciary.
He had a string of ideas of what he plans to do – an independent MACC, quashing cronyism, balanced foreign investments, distribution of wealth and race relations.
The delegates loved it although it probably sounds hollow to critics who associate him to the very issues that he now plans to correct.
His chief target was Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, whom he painted as the root of all evil. Neither did he spare those who were cooperating with Najib, calling them “sampah” or garbage.
He said he would not apologise for the name-calling and although he was not specific, it was obvious that he was referring to PAS.
In fact, PAS was his secondary target whom he labelled as “a party that peddles religion” to win votes and he singled out Ibrahim Libya who died in the Memali tragedy as an extremist.
Overall, his speeches yesterday were that of a man preparing for a comeback.
Ironically, his closing speech was vaguely similar to that of the man who he wants to overthrow. The central theme was about how the party needs to come along with the party’s choice of candidates.
The issue of sabotage looms large over the party and Mukhriz, when thanking the delegates in his winding-up speech, had said: “There are more than 900 of you in the hall but please remember not everyone can be a candidate.”