THE anti-kleptocracy and anti-graft campaign Dr Mahathir Mohamad used to mobilise voters in the last general election will not wash at the next polls, said voters and analysts.
While Dr Mahathir has been harping on this while promoting Pejuang, they said the Langkawi MP should focus on a new narrative – selling the deal his new party is offering to the people.
This is especially since former prime minister Najib Razak was found guilty for graft by the high court.
They added that Dr Mahathir must also change his pitch as Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Perikatan Nasional government are now accepted by the people, as shown by a Merdeka Centre survey.
PN also captured the Sabah government last weekend and is now helmed by Bersatu’s Hajiji Mohd Noor.
Voters in Langkawi recently said Dr Mahathir should stop criticising other leaders and start focusing on what Pejuang is offering and fighting for.
Laundry operator Yusuf Abdullah said Dr Mahathir used to captivate his audience with sharp speeches that rebuked politicians but felt this approach was no longer effective in rallying voters.
“I feel the reason Dr Mahathir keeps repeating ‘Najib is a thief, a crook’ and all sorts of other things is that if he doesn’t do that, the Malays will easily forget,” Yusof told The Malaysian Insight after a Dr Mahathir event in Langkawi over the weekend.
In his speech, Dr Mahathir repeated how Bersatu betrayed Pakatan Harapan’s struggle against Najib, and again described the latter as a thief and crook.
Yusuf said the nonagenarian needs to be more mindful in fuelling the anti-kleptocracy and anti-corruption narrative going into the 15th general election, as it may backfire and increase Najib’s popularity.
“Dr Mahathir’s attacks against Najib must be more calculated, although I understand his intention is to prevent corrupt practices among older politicians from spreading to the younger ones.”
Langkawi Amanah committee member Zabidi Yahya, who was present at the event, also felt the attacks against Najib are no longer effective.
“In GE14, yes, we were campaigning against Najib and it was so effective that PH ended up winning.
“But now the momentum has changed. Najib has already been found guilty by the court, and the political situation is now different,” he said, referring to the guilty verdict for seven charges in the SRC International Bhd corruption trial.
Najib is now appealing against the verdict.
“Pejuang has to come forward with a new idea, which is different from Umno and Bersatu. Even though we agree Malays have to be protected, we cannot oppress other races and think of Malaysia as belonging only to the Malays.
“They have to be moderate in their stance and at the same time, protect the welfare of Malays,” said Zabidi, adding that many in Langkawi still hold Dr Mahathir in high esteem for his service as a statesman.
Dr Mahathir also took aim at Bersatu’s act of withdrawing from PH last February, which triggered the collapse of the PH government at federal level and in a few states.
The former prime minister blamed the party for colluding with Umno and its corrupt leaders, who are facing criminal charges.
But even if six out of 10 Malay voters accept the court’s guilty verdict on Najib, as a Merdeka Centre study found, Dr Mahathir’s repetition of the same points could create the perception Pejuang is founded only for short-term goals.
This is not enough for a new party, Penang Institute’s Nidhal Mujahid said, as people now had different concerns, especially with the country’s situation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This (anti-corruption) rhetoric may have been useful in the previous general election. But the situation has changed due to the pandemic. People are now more worried about bread-and-butter issues.
“The question is how will Pejuang brand itself so that they appear bolder, more relevant and more ethical in championing the Malay agenda, while balancing it with the reality of Malaysia’s pluralist society,” Nidhal told The Malaysian Insight.
Political analyst Serina Abdul Rahman said people are more concerned with other issues and will look for leaders and parties that can manage the economy well.
“It will continue to be about economics. I think people are tired of all the politicking. In the rural areas, what matters is whether they can put food on the table.
“Especially in this pandemic, when many people have lost jobs and cannot go to Singapore to work, things are harder than ever,” said the visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
“To be honest, on the rural ground, no one cares about what these politicians do or say – or who is in power. They just want someone to fix their problems and help them put money on the table. Everything else is just window dressing,” she added.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT