Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came back out of retirement to defeat friend turned foe Najib Razak as the country became a safe haven for corruption under Razak. Mahathir formed an alliance with arch nemesis-turned-ally, Anwar Ibrahim to defeat Razak. While Mahathir became the Prime Minister, it was planned that Mahathir would step down from the post of Prime Minister for Anwar to take over as back then, Anwar was a victim of political imprisonment.
After destroying the country’s economy and taking the country closer to Wahabism, Mahathir has hinted that he would finally step down by the end of the year.
Mahathir, without giving an exact date, has said that he is willing to retire in the next nine months. It was decided that Mahathir would pass on the premiership to Anwar who was then in jail however, the exact date of the handover has not been discussed so far. According to people close to the Mahathir, he will leave the office after he hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November. However, most observers believe that Mahathir wants to continue in power for the next 3-years and that he could form a new Muslim-based coalition with opposition parties.
While the Pakatan Harapan coalition has brought political stability it has been marred by infighting and scandals. Mahathir’s rabid anti-India stance was not well received by Anwar’s party as they wanted closer ties with India. While Dr Mahathir said that he would step down after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November, Mahathir might reconsider his decision if his differing statements are anything to go by. Mahathir while speaking to the media at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, said the Pakatan Harapan presidential council made a unanimous decision to allow him to set the date.“We have discussed this at length. I don’t have to repeat what we decided on. There were two opinions and in the end, it was all left up to me. What I say they will follow.” The transition will take place after Apec (and) there is no timeframe, no date, nothing. “It is up to me whether to let go (of power) or not. That was the trust given to me by the party,” he said during the press conference after chairing the PH presidential council meeting. Earlier this month, Mahathir was quoted as: “I don’t know (if the issue will be raised). I have said that I am ready to resign at any time when asked. But my promise to resign remains. Whatever the decision (by the presidential council), I will resign after the APEC meeting.”
Mahathir’s reckless decisions have ended up harming Malaysia’s economy. Malaysia’s economy heavily depends on its palm oil exports to India. Palm oil accounts for nearly two-thirds of India’s total edible oil imports. India buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia is the world’s biggest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia. Palm oil is crucial for the Malaysian economy as it accounts for 2.8% of Malaysia’s gross domestic product and 4.5% of total exports. Mahathir it seems has skipped his classes on the economy as he has decided to alienate India at a time when Malaysia exported palm oil worth $1.65 billion to India in 2018. Globally, the European Union is also planning to phase out palm oil by 2030 as there are growing concerns over its impact on the environment as Malaysia finds itself caught in the crossfire between the US-China trade war as two of its biggest trade partners engage in a tariff war. At such a delicate time, Mahathir’s statement which will alienate India exposes his inept and is an extremely poor judgement of economics. After his constant anti-India rants, India has now sought to restrict the palm oil imports as the Indian government has informally asked palm oil refiners to stop buying palm oil from Malaysia — a move which has the potential to bleed Malaysia’s ailing economy.
He further exposed his inept when during an Islamic summit in Malaysia, Mahathir suggested going back to medieval times to counter-sanctions. “I have suggested that we re-visit the idea of trading using the gold dinar and barter trade among us,” referring to medieval Islamic practice, which was prevalent among Muslim countries, due to lack of sophisticated modern technology. “We are seriously looking into this and we hope that we will be able to find a mechanism to put it into effect,” he added.
Anwar has also raised concerns about Malaysia’s economy as he recently spoke about how the economy did not look good, especially following the coronavirus outbreak. “In the last quarter, economic growth was only 4.3 per cent. It will drop more this quarter, so we need to find a way to improve it,” he said.
Anwar in an apparent rebuke to Mahathir’s religion-based politics said that when he becomes prime minister, he would focus on building policies that were based on the needs of the people, instead of race or religion. “(Race and religion) was how it was done before, but that is not how it will be done after this. From here on, the policies will be needs-based,” he said. “If you want to be a truly Malaysian leader, and if you want to be a leader for this nation, then you must have the same passion for the Malay, Indians and Chinese and ensure that all our children are given equal opportunities.”