Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s resignation as prime minister on Feb 24 brought the curtain down on Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month-old government.
His close confidante Daim Zainuddin, in an interview sent to several media outlets, is asked if the nonagenarian, who is often regarded as a master in statecraft, had made a mistake.
Alluding to the Bersatu supreme council meeting the night before the resignation, he said Mahathir needed to act fast.
“It really isn’t so simple as to whether or not he made a mistake […] It was not as if he could have taken time to consider all avenues.
“Now after the fact, it is easy to say (it was a) mistake. But at that time and under those circumstances, was it a mistake?” he added.
Mahathir’s resignation came in the wake of Bersatu chairperson Muhyiddin Yassin announcing that the party is withdrawing from Harapan.
Following a week-long political crisis, Muhyiddin was appointed as prime minister of the Perikatan Nasional government while Bersatu is split with some still supporting Mahathir, who is the party chairperson.
However, Daim said the new government had violated the people’s mandate.
“My principle has not changed, it is a question of legitimacy.
“The parties concerned can set up whatever coalition they want. But to do it in order to form a new government is not in line with the will of the rakyat.
“In 2018, the rakyat voted a Harapan government to rule for five years until a new general election is called. That needs to be respected.
“The formation of a PN government did not respect that mandate,” he added.
Who represents non-Malays in new government?
Daim also noted the racial imbalance in the new government, describing the representatives from MCA and MIC as “token appointments” due to their small number of parliament seats.
While several MCA politicians have been appointed to GLC positions, he pointed out that these individuals have no influence over the running of the government.
“So who is representing the non-Malay communities in the government?” he asked.
MCA has one cabinet position and four deputy ministers whereas MIC has one ministerial portfolio in the PN alliance, which comprises three Malay-Muslim parties – Bersatu, Umno and PAS.
Looking ahead, Daim said the cooperation between Bersatu, Umno and PAS would be tested in relation to seat allocations for the next general election.
“I am not sure how three competing coalition members will be able to satisfy their members on the ground.
“Will these push and pull from the ground destabilise the government machinery and interrupt the multi-ministerial initiatives planned for the people?” he questioned.
The issue of political appointments to GLCs had threatened to bring down the PN government in Johor with threats of snap polls being called after mounting tension between Bersatu and Umno, with the former accusing the latter of sidelining them.