Why BN lost, or how we decided to embrace a 92-year-old

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reacts during a news conference in Petaling Jaya May 10, 2018.  — Reuters pic
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reacts during a news conference in Petaling Jaya May 10, 2018. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Perhaps it was about GST. Or it could have been the 1MDB scandal that plagued Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his administration.

Why did enough Malaysians do what they did yesterday and throw out the world’s longest democratically elected ruling party Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN)?

Perhaps it was the unbearable arrogance of the BN administration or the sense of entitlement held by its leaders.

Umno and BN leaders could literally do or say anything, but the same privilege was not accorded its opponents.

How bad was it for Malaysia that a majority of voters decided to back a man with such an authoritarian image that his successor Tun Abdullah Badawi won an unprecedented landslide in 2004 on the back of relief that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had finally departed the stage?

Pretty bad it would seem.

Or was it the corruption scandals that seemed to come one after another? 1MDB, Felda etc. The economy maybe?

People had been struggling with stagnant pay, rising prices, and had to stomach ministers and Umno leaders saying it was not that bad.

Not that bad?

Well, the public had to tighten their collective belts while being treated to rumours of lavish spending by some Umno leaders.

Oh yes, it was fake news they told us. So the government introduced an anti-fake news law to protect the country and us.

Or maybe it was the Internet? Maybe social media? More likely it was how people were sharing “unverified” information on WhatsApp?

How about manipulating race and religious relations?  Playing the race and religious card when it suited Umno? The relentless pursuit and hounding of political opponents?

All of the reasons above were once accusations hurled at Dr Mahathir. And yet Malaysians embraced the old man.

A 92-year-old man, once reviled by many of the same voters who voted to back him yesterday, is now the coolest guy in the country. Why did yesterday happen?

Take your pick. The reasons are inexhaustible. After all they have been accumulating since 1957.

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