The clear result from the Tanjong Piai by-election is that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s (above) position has become rather shaky and untenable because he has lost support not only among non-Malays, especially the Chinese, but also among the Malays.

That the Chinese rejected the Harapan candidate from Mahathir’s Bersatu is no great surprise (except for the vehemence with which they did, as reflected by the large number of defections. The real surprise is the poor traction he got from the Malays.

The figures show that Barisan Nasional (BN) won with 25,466 votes – a huge majority of over 15,000 compared to Harapan’s 10,380 votes, dealing the worst by-election loss ever for a ruling party, a majority that could not have been achieved, except with desertion of both Malay and Chinese voters from Harapan.

Harapan’s support base dwindled from 46 percent to 26 percent of the votes, a swing of about 20 percentage points, while that of BN rose from 45 percent to some 66 percent. Put another way, Harapan’s support was one out of four votes, while BN’s support was two out of three votes, an unprecedented swing in support against the ruling party, which reflects the unhappiness with Mahathir.

That leaves Mahathir squarely between a rock and a hard place because of what should have been obvious all along to more astute observers – that is, Mahathir has no support base with the Malays who prefer the Umno-PAS axis, and simultaneously, the DAP Chinese base who opted to teach Bersatu a lesson for their abandonment of Harapan’s multi-racial stance.

Also, notably, the election results showed that voting was not along racial lines, with the result reflecting a high degree of collective wisdom from the electorate. The Umno/PAS support base voted in a Chinese candidate to support BN, while the Chinese voter base, which previously voted anti-MCA and supported non-Chinese Harapan candidates, decided to snub Bersatu this time for their strong stance against non-Malays.

There are further vital implications – it is plain as day for all who want to see that the only hope at GE15 for Harapan is a multi-racial stance – the same way they won GE14. This way, if they get moderate support from Malays, say 30-40 percent from the Malays and solid support, say 80 percent, from non-Malays, they can still win easily.

And the only way they can do that is if Bersatu, the anomaly in Harapan being the only-race-based (and might I add racist) party in the Harapan coalition, is sidelined and shoved aside in favour of the two parties which substantially won the GE14 for Harapan – PKR and DAP – the multi-racial parties.

In a country where Malays form an estimated 55 percent of the population, according to the 2010 census figures, the only option which is fair and equitable is power-sharing, not Ketuanan Melayu, which is what Mahathir has implicitly and explicitly promoted during his entire political career, including his latest.

That means if Mahathir does not step down very soon in favour of Anwar Ibrahim (above) and reformasi, Umno/PAS will be back in power with all the consequences that it means for the nation and all of us. It will be the return of the kleptocrats and the destruction of the country – worse than what Marcos did to the Philippines, a situation from which we will never recover and one that we will deserve because we did not do enough to stop it.

All this is of no consequence if Mahathir decides to keep to his promised two-year deadline, reiterated multiple times, and go peaceably when the time comes, instead of throwing uncertainty up in the air constantly by indicating he may want to stay on.

He should know by now that if he leads the Harapan coalition into the next general election, he won’t have a chance in hell of winning because broad Malay support will go to Umno/PAS, while the non-Malays will reject him too, resulting in a near-certain BN victory that can have very dire consequences, not least for Mahathir.

Thus the only way for Mahathir to remain in there, consolidate his power and put another person in power who is not Anwar, is to strike a deal with Umno. And it looks like Hishamuddin Hussein, despite denials, has done this by organising the meeting of some 22 BN MPs and five from the Azmin Ali faction in Harapan.

But this plot, denied by a number of people but which most likely is being actively considered, will most likely fail because Umno/PAS know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not need Mahathir to win the elections, the same way Harapan did not need him to win GE14, at the end of which Bersatu had just 13 parliamentary seats and an abysmal win rate of 25 percent.

Thus, this scheming to align with Mahathir will only put the power back in the hands of Mahathir, a person who now does not have sufficient grassroots support anymore from both Malays and non-Malays. Umno/PAS are not going to allow Mahathir to become their leader again when they really do not have to.

It is also in Mahathir’s interests that he steps down. Here’s why. If he stayed on and passed on power to Azmin Ali against all odds, there is much more than an even chance that Harapan will lose power to Umno/PAS at GE15.

Imagine the consequences. If Najib Razak (above, right) and Zahid Hamidi (above, left), respectively the former and current president of Umno, had been convicted by then, it is entirely possible they will get royal pardons.

Imagine the backlash that will take place. The vengeful swords will be aimed at Mahathir, his good friend Daim Zainuddin, and possibly an array of other Harapan leaders. Remember, Mahathir has not placed any measures to limit the powers of the prime minister and put more power in the hands of the legislature and the judiciary. Even that won’t help when power goes to a corrupt government bent on vengeance.

If Mahathir thinks that he can engineer an alliance with Umno that will get him into power, imagine what will happen when GE15 comes around – a rejection of him and the parties aligned with him.

The best option for Mahathir is to concede that his days of racially charged politics are over, move to a more moderate stance which most Malaysians will support, and start implementing the changes that the Harapan manifesto promised.

By now, Mahathir and everyone else should know he has neither the temperament, inclination nor will to do that and quickly hand over power to the designated successor as promised at GE14, Anwar, and allow Anwar a chance to recover lost ground and win GE15.

Like most Malaysians, I hate to see the consequences otherwise.


– M’kini