Mahathir Mohamad has been ridiculed for quitting Malaysia’s ruling party UMNO for the second time and joining forces with his long-time political opponents who he spent much of his premiership cracking down on. Analysts have branded his resignation from the party he led from 1981 to 2003 as a ‘last straw’ move, exposing hidden motives behind his bid to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Experts highlighted how Dr Mahathir has done this before, previously quitting the party in May 2008 after he fell out and removed the then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
But stark contrasts were drawn between the 2008 resignation and this latest one, with many calling it a sign of his waning influence. Unlike during his first resignation, Mahathir has been forced to collaborate with the politicians he had previously jailed and linked to terrorists. They include the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang whom he detained under the Internal Security Act in 1987; and PAS figures such as Mustafa Ali and Mohamad Sabu, whose party Mahathir linked to terrorists in a TV commercials during his tenure as Prime Minister.
Chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) interpreted the development as “the last straw in Mahathir’s hands.” Highlighting Dr. M’s ceasing influence, Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan added: “I doubt his resignation from UMNO will have impact unless he is able to trigger even more resignations from other Umno leaders. If this remains a lone protest, it will not make any difference.”
UMNO members also attacked their former leader – saying it exposed his motives of self-interest. UMNO’s information chief Annuar Musa added that the party would survive without Mahathir, criticizing the former prime minister for putting his personal interest above those of the party.
The similarities and differences between then and now were summed up by Abdul Rahman Dahlan. The Housing and Local Government Minister took to Twitter to note that when Dr Mahathir made a surprise announcement about resigning from all his posts in 2002, “many UMNO members cried”. He continued, “but this time around, tears no more!”