KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pledged to lead a clean and corruption-free state government that mirrors the “old” Umno, vowing on the eve of the Johor state election that his party Pejuang will strive to finish what the Malay nationalist outfit had set out to do, which is serve and work to elevate the socio-economic status of the Malays.

Speaking from his home and streamed “live” on Facebook, the two-time former prime minister said Pejuang was formed to right everything that was wrong with the current Umno, a party he once led for decades.

Dr Mahathir said Umno today is led by mostly corrupt leaders who view the party as a stepping stone to enrich themselves.

He insisted that Pejuang, the second party he helped set up since leaving Umno, recruits only clean leaders who want to steer the country to greatness.

The former Umno president assured ethnic minorities that Pejuang’s Malay agenda will not be at their expense, as the party aims to turn Malaysia into an “Asian Tiger”, the nomenclature for economic powerhouses like Japan or South Korea, which he said will benefit all and not just a single race.

“We must continue the fight because the struggle to help the Malays isn’t over, and requires a specific focus. That is why we formed Pejuang,” he said.

“Yes, the formation of Pejuang means there are more Malay parties but others tend to be involved with corruption, power abuses and various other misdeeds that led to defeat (and Malay rejection) of Umno,” the former prime minister added.

“That is why we need a Malay party that fights not only for the Malays but also other communities just like the old Umno, which was supported across all ethnicities because they led a good government.”

Despite its nascent age, Pejuang is eyeing 42 of the 56 state legislative seats, underscoring its ambition to become a serious contender that could challenge Umno’s dominance in its home state.

Malays form the majority in 16 constituencies, while 23 more have either a 50 to 69 per cent Malay electorate.

Ilham Centre, a think tank, said its field survey found BN to be dominant in seats where the Malays form 70 per cent of the electorate, as well as constituencies where Malays make up 50 to 69 per cent of the electorate even as Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan put up a fierce fight.

PN is led by another all-Malay party Bersatu, also formed by Dr Mahathir. He left after Bersatu defected from PH, a move that caused the collapse of the PH administration in which he was prime minister. He said that he had left Bersatu because the party had chosen to collaborate with corrupt Umno leaders.

The coalition comprising PAS, Bersatu and Gerakan has put up a strong showing throughout the campaign trail, according to the survey, but not enough to outdo its BN rivals.

Meanwhile smaller parties like Pejuang and the Sabah-birthed Warisan are also unlikely to make any significant gains, according to the survey.