D M — the necessary prime minister

There has been a fair bit of reaction to the announcement that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the prime minister-designate in the event the opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan (PH), wins the next general elections. The mostly negative reaction is from the ruling Barisan Nasional side.

So negative was the reaction that the former prime minister was barred from visiting jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital on the grounds that,  as a non-family member, Dr M didn’t get permission to do so, according to reports. Frankly, it was just another low in Malaysian politics. As leaders in the same coalition, Dr M had every right to visit Anwar but was stopped by “orders from the top”.

BN bitterness is understandable. No one was able to pull the rug from under Umno as Dr M has. Umno, and consequently the coalition it leads, is floundering. PH taking over the reins of government is now a very distinct possibility, especially now that it has a strong national-level leadership.

It is apparent that the BN can’t handle the possibility of losing and resorting to hitting below the belt. It’s commendable that the 93-year-old Dr M is taking it in his stride, taking all the hits, and still walking with his head held up.

True, there may be other better leaders in the opposition but, apart from Anwar, no one else has the experience of governing a nation that Dr M has. Should PH win the coming general elections, an inexperienced national leadership may be inept in handling the challenges and pressures of running a government. Under Dr M’s tutelage, they’ll learn and get the necessary experience.

As Dr M will only be an interim PM, when he leaves, those who follow can develop their own style of leadership. Until then, Dr M will provide the stability in the transition to a new breed of government leaders. Those who are tenaciously hanging on to the status quo can be expected to give the new leaders a very tough time. A seasoned leader like Dr M would be able to stand up to them while ensuring continuity and stability of government until the younger leaders find their feet and can take over.

I believe PH made the decision to make Dr M prime minister for the sake of the nation. They know their limitations and are appreciative of what Dr M brings to the table.

Dr M also seems able to connect with the rural Malays, something that the Anwar-founded, urban-based Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), which is the leading party in PH, is unable to do. With Dr M at the helm of the opposition leadership, there is a very good chance that the rural vote on which BN has always won can be breached, which means Umno stands a very good chance of losing.

It will be exciting to see if the big turnout at Dr M’s rallies in the rural areas will translate to votes for the opposition. Observing the trends, PH has to make plans for the possibility that the people’s mandate will be thrust into their hands.

For me, at this point in the history of this nation, that’s the way forward!

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