KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would not win an early general election if he called one now, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, but not because the Perikatan Nasional would lose.
In an interview with Asia Times, the former prime minister appeared to also concede his chances of leading an Opposition coalition to yet another general election victory and said the main beneficiaries would be his immediate predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and the latter’s party.
“Who will win will be the party that lost the last election, Umno, and Najib, provided of course if Najib is found not guilty,” Dr Mahathir said, referring to Najib’s corruption, money-laundering and abuse charges.
He also sought to portray Najib as Muhyiddin’s Catch-22, in which both an acquittal or a conviction would ultimately cost the prime minister.
Dr Mahathir claimed the convictions of Najib and other Umno leaders facing corruption charges would mean Muhyiddin would not be able to count them among the federal lawmakers who gave Perikatan Nasional a slim majority in Parliament.
However, he suggested that a Najib freed of his charges was also likely to seek a return as the prime minister and undermine Muhyiddin to do so.
Dr Mahathir portrayed Najib as a major power broker in the PN coalition, saying the latter was fundamental in keeping Muhyiddin’s administration in Putrajaya.
“Muhyiddin knows that without Najib’s support, his government will collapse. So he has to support Najib,” he said.
“But to support Najib means you have to pay a high price, because Najib’s whole idea is that if he can seize the power from the elected government and be a part of the new government, then he would have influence.”
Dr Mahathir continues to view Najib as his main adversary notwithstanding Muhyiddin and Bersatu’s actions that allowed PN to take over the government.
Muhyiddin is said to be eyeing an early general election in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic in order to secure his personal mandate and dispel views that his coalition came to power via the “backdoor”.