KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 15 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad accused Umno today of forcing the premature Johor election to gain the political power it needs to save its leaders he described as “kleptocrats” and a “court cluster”.

In a letter to the state’s voters, Dr Mahathir said victory in Johor would position the party to win the 15th general election, after which he claimed it would use its power to absolve its “court cluster” leaders who have been charged with corruption, abuse of power, and money laundering, among others.

“There are voters who say that the court cluster and kleptocrats are not contesting at the Johor state election.

“It is true, but those who are contesting under the Umno or BN (Barisan Nasional) flag will give the power to the court cluster and kleptocrats,” said the Pejuang chairperson in a statement.

Dr Mahathir said this was why his Pejuang party will contest at the Johor state election: to ensure that Umno and BN will not win and give power back to the kleptocrats and those from the court cluster.

“I am sure the people of Johor will join Pejuang and put a dent in their plans,” he said.

On February 11, Pejuang President Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said that the party would be contesting on its own and would not be part of the Opposition’s big tent.

He said Pejuang will be running in 42 out of 56 state seats in the coming polls.

The EC has set March 12 as polling day for the Johor state election. Nomination day is set for February 26, with early voting on March 8.