KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s silence so far in the aftermath of his son’s loss during last weekend’s Umno polls has not surprised many political observers here who believe that this time, the once all-powerful former prime minister should finally admit to his declining influence.
According to several analysts, it would have reflected poorly on the former Umno president if he chooses to kick up a storm now, especially after a majority of delegates voted to maintain the status quo in the party on Saturday, in support of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
“I think Dr Mahathir will be gracious and accept the outcome. In fact, he has no choice.
“He will not want to be seen as destroying party unity or acting as a catalyst for a crisis within the party leadership,” Dr Lim Teck Ghee, CEO of think tank Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI), told The Malay Mail Online.
Lim’s opinion was mirrored by political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, who said that the current structure of the party does not allow Dr Mahathir to interfere in party matters.
“He will be rubbing a lot of people the wrong way, he has to respect that larger voting pool this time around,” Khoo told The Malay Mail Online.
Close to 146,000 Umno delegates voted for the status quo during Saturday’s polls, with Puteri chief Mas Ermieyati Samsuddin the only fresh face in the top eight positions, by virtue of the spot being vacated.
Mukhriz was one of the six contenders for the vice-president post, but in a nail-biting race, narrowly lost to incumbents Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
Khoo also thought that Mukhriz’s position as Kedah mentri besar, the youngest ever to hold such post, is sufficient enough for his father to not meddle in party politics for his sake.
Meanwhile, Prof Dr Shamsul Adabi Mamat, a political science lecturer with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) claimed that Mukhriz has already made his an indelible mark in Umno with his candidacy, without any help from Dr Mahathir.
“The entry of Mukhriz in the vice-president (candidacy) line-up had at least given Umno the effect of change that it wanted,” Shamsul Adabi told The Malay Mail Online.
Moreover, Shamsul Adabi insisted that Dr Mahathir had never actually engaged in an open duel with the Umno leadership after his retirement, except to express his disappointment over the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“The role played by Najib is different to Pak Lah before. Najib has always taken Dr Mahathir’s opinion himself in his administration. Dr Mahathir has no problems with Umno’s top leadership,” he said, referring to Abdullah by his popular moniker.
Although some political commentators have noted that Mukhriz’s loss signalled Dr Mahathir’s waning conservative influence, Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin brushed off such notion yesterday and put his defeat down to Mukhriz’s lesser popularity compared to Hishammuddin.
Lim however claimed that the perception of Dr Mahathir’s fading influence is true, due to his inability to work the ground personally these days, and the lack of political rewards that he could promise to his followers — both results of a long-serving political career.
“Don’t forget that he has his eye on how history will remember him. I am sure he knows that his good name depends on his not rocking the Umno boat too much,” said Lim.
Mukhriz’s campaign was mired in controversy after it became the subject of reports alleging money politics, and was also hit by rumours that he was disqualified over the claims, as propagated by a fake Facebook account purported to belong to Muhyiddin.