Despite the King’s appeal, intense politicking rages on unabated. Divisions are now so deep and personal ambitions so great that nothing will stop this insane game of thrones until one man rules them all. The welfare of the people matters little though, of course, they all couch their ambitions in terms of serving the people.

Truth be told, there are simply no good choices before us. All the front-runners are deeply flawed; none qualify as the leader the nation needs not just to tackle the Covid-19 situation but to lead our nation out of the morass we are in. We are a nation in deep distress, paralysed by internal contradictions and divisions and poorly served by our self-serving political classes.

But if you thought things couldn’t get any worse, think again. Dr Mahathir Mohamad has re-entered the fray hoping to make a comeback and become prime minister for the third time. Some dismiss this as wishful thinking but remember this is Malaysia; we are very forgiving of our politicians no matter how much they cheat,  swindle, defraud or kick us in the gut. After all, we are still cheering on a leader who robbed us of billions, so there’s no reason to think that a leader who betrayed our trust and has cumulatively done more to damage our nation than anyone else couldn’t make a comeback. 

But please, before our largely gutless and unprincipled members of parliament flock to Mahathir’s banner once more, can they stop and think for a moment what another Mahathir administration would mean for the nation? 

A recent post on the Facebook page of Mahathir’s fan club – Kelab Che Det – outlined his views quite clearly: “as the country was being tested, a unity government is the best solution to the impasse… Political parties need to be set aside for now, and instead only national interests should be prioritised. It also upholds the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s call to stop politicking.” It went on to say that “if a unity government is formed, it is hoped that it not only protects the interests and welfare of the multiracial Malaysian citizenry, but also bring focus on efforts to revive the increasingly challenging national economy that has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, political turmoil, and uncertain global economic climate.”

There is no argument that we need a “unity” government given the multiple crises we now face but is Mahathir the right man to lead it? Can he truly protect the interests and welfare of all Malaysians? Is he up to the task of reviving the national economy? Can we entrust absolute power – which is what Mahathir has in mind when he talks about putting aside party politics – to a man with proven authoritarian instincts? 

Going by his most recent stint as prime minister, a strong case can be made that he is singularly unsuited for the task. Remember, this is the same man who had everything going for him when he returned to office in 2018 after a historic election victory. He had a majority in parliament. He had the confidence of the people. He had the support of perhaps the most multiracial and talented coalition ever assembled in parliament. He had a widely supported and popular political manifesto. Perhaps no other Malaysian leader had the kind of advantages going for him as Mahathir did post-GE14.

Instead of using the unique opportunity that history and circumstance had bequeathed to him to revive the nation, to heal the divisions, to get our country moving forward again, he conspired almost from the onset to undermine his own government in order to pursue his own ambitions. He played his racist games, reintroduced all his old failed economic policies, went back on his promises and unleashed the very forces that are now tearing the country apart. 

To be sure, he did get some things right but on the whole, his stewardship of our hopes for a better Malaysia was an unmitigated disaster. 

Of course, many are angry with the way prime minister Muhyiddin took power and his recent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic could certainly have been better. As well, the way Muhyiddin set about consolidating his position by essentially buying the allegiance of his MPs with cabinet posts and GLC positions was utterly repugnant. Concern that the crooks now facing charges of corruption might somehow evade justice is also real enough. And yes, Muhyiddin’s attempt to suffocate the democratic process via an emergency declaration was beyond the pale. 

Without a doubt, there’s lots to be angry about, plenty of people worthy of our disdain and tons of things to fret over but we must not allow any of that to blind us to the existential threat that another Mahathir administration poses. 

Mahathir won’t change and he won’t own his errors. He is who he is. If he returns to office, the only thing we can expect from him is more of the same insanity. He has disappointed us twice before; he doesn’t deserve a third chance. 

In short, we simply cannot afford another Mahathir administration.

 [Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 31st October 2020]