DR Mahathir Mohamad seemed to have lost his battle with Muhyiddin Yassin for control over Bersatu and will now rely on internal elections to see if he has enough support to wrest back the party he founded, said political analysts.

They told The Malaysian Insight the former prime minister is left with few options after the Registrar of Societies (RoS) said he is no longer Bersatu chairman as he had resigned on Feb 24.

Dr Mahathir, however, yesterday questioned the RoS announcement.

In a letter to the RoS from his lawyer, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, he said the agency’s decision was one-sided, and had failed to consider that his resignation was rejected by the party’s senior leaders.

“He can now choose to take the issue to court, renegotiate with Muhyiddin for a win-win situation or retake control of Bersatu through party polls,” said the Malay ethnic studies lecturer.

In the past week, Dr Mahathir has questioned Muhyiddin’s right to take Bersatu out of Pakatan Harapan (PH) on February 24 to become the 8th prime minister on March 1.

Leaked audio recordings of Bersatu’s supreme council meeting on February 23 showed that Muhyiddin had initially agreed to give Dr Mahathir one week to decide whether to pull the party out of PH.

But on February 24, Muhyiddin announced that the party was pulling out of PH, causing the government to collapse. By the end of the week, Muhyiddin was able to garner enough support from Barisan Nasional, GPS and PAS to become the 8th prime minister.

On Monday, Dr Mahathir reiterated that he is still the chairman, and that the Bersatu supreme council did not endorse the decision to quit PH.

But RoS dropped the bombshell as it legitimised Muhyiddin’s decision on February 24 by saying Dr Mahathir is no longer the chairman as he had resigned. Muhyiddin-aligned leaders also claimed that they had approved Bersatu leaving PH.

Awang Azman, however, believes that it will be difficult for Dr Mahathir to win Bersatu back with the handful of MPs on his side.

While Dr Mahathir is expected to win the Bersatu chairman’s position as he is uncontested, his son Mukhriz is challenging Muhyiddin for the president’s post.

“To take back Bersatu, Dr Mahathir needs his allies to also win enough seats on the 28-member supreme council,” said the academic.

Ilhan Centre executive director Mohd Azlan Zainal believes that Muhyiddin has the upper hand as he is also the prime minister.

“As the party elections loom, we are expecting Bersatu to sack Dr Mahathir. But that’s a risky move and they have used RoS to set him aside instead.

“Muhyiddin is in a much more powerful position as he has Mohamed Azmin Ali and the Umno defectors on his side. Added to that are some of the state chiefs. He has the advantage,”   said the pollster.

He said Dr Mahathir’s handful of supporters in the supreme council may not be able to save him.

“Dr Mahathir can only hope that the Bersatu grassroots will save him in the party elections,” said Azlan.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia political analyst Prof Mazlan Ali expects Dr Mahathir to use the legal system against Muhyiddin.

“They will ask the courts to review his position as chairman and try to get sympathy votes from other Bersatu members and leaders.

“Dr Mahathir will also continue to pressure Muhyiddin through no-confidence motions and challenge his legitimacy as Bersatu president and prime minister,” said Mazlan.

He added that Dr Mahathir will continue to work with PH and Warisan to antagonise Muhyiddin in Parliament.