The much-needed self-reflection by Tun M before criticising Anwar

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad is free to form his opinion on whether he is confident or not in Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

But before commenting on the topic of confidence, it would be best for the two-time PM to assess and contemplate the people’s loss of confidence in him, his party and his coalition.

Anwar-led the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to emerge as the biggest coalition in Parliament with 82 seats while the Dr Mahathir-led Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) coalition received zero.

Anwar officially won the Tambun parliamentary seat with a majority of 5,328 votes although the constituency is not his stronghold, while Dr Mahathir not only failed to defend his Langkawi parliamentary seat but even lost his deposit.

In a huge contrast, Anwar became Malaysia’s 10th PM upon receiving a mandate from his voter base, confidence from other coalitions, and endorsed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers. On the contrary, Dr Mahathir and his party became totally irrelevant in Malaysia’s current politics.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim visits flood victim in Pasir Mas, Kelantan on Dec 21 (Pic credit: Afiq Hambali/PMO)

Despite this, Anwar proved his legitimacy by also winning the motion of confidence at the first session of the 15th Parliamentary session, gaining support from his unity government consisting of former political rivals, while the top leadership in Dr Mahathir’s Pejuang are leaving, citing the loss of confidence. Even Dr Mahathir has left the party he founded.

Thus, as far as the topic of confidence goes, the contrast between Dr Mahathir and Anwar is like night and day. It is best to digest, contemplate and accept the reality before commenting on the matter.

Dr Mahathir loses relevance

As for being worried about Anwar’s ability to navigate and address the economic issues or claiming Anwar was preoccupied with maintaining support in the Dewan Rakyat, perhaps Dr Mahathir could not recall ever being worried about securing confidence because the system he put in place ensured that his authority will never be questioned.

In contrast to Dr Mahathir’s brand of power concentration and collusion of power, thankfully Anwar and PH are in fact, pushing for the de-powering of the PM’s position by limiting terms, ensuring appointments of the Attorney-General (AG) and other crucial checks-and-balance organisations are made independently as well as separating the executive and the judiciary and many other reforms.

If anything, Anwar’s apparent “preoccupation” involves undoing the resulting corrupt machinery instilled through decades of Dr Mahathir’s “preoccupation” with securing power. Anwar could have focused solely on economic issues but he ended up having to juggle cleaning up someone else’s mess of poor governance and integrity over many decades.

As for being worried about Anwar’s ability to navigate and address the economic issues, Dr Mahathir should know it has only been a month since Anwar took office, and even then, his administration has done plenty.

Anwar’s first order of business was (and still is) to focus on addressing issues tied to cost of living with short and long-terms measures being implemented. Dr Mahathir should know that inflation is a combination of various factors, some areas being less within the control of the government. It’s easy to criticise from the sideline.

Dr Mahathir is unable to deny Anwar’s leadership-by-example which has been shown through cutting ministerial salaries (in addition to Anwar not taking any pay), ordering cost-cutting measures and frugality in ministries and agencies, and not taking new government car or office renovations.

Helping the people remains a focus when electricity tariff was not increased, giving tax cuts for low-cost housing, direct cash aid for students and families who are in need, special telco payment schemes for youths, veterans and the old, and many more.

All this while not forgetting to address structural and governance issues such as ending direct tenders, reviewing costly and questionable projects and so on.

Perhaps if Dr Mahathir has other great ideas, he should constructively convey this to Anwar. At least Dr Mahathir might maintain some semblance of relevance in that way instead of unproductive criticisms and comments to the press or ramblings on social media. – Dec 26, 2022


Datuk Dr Rais Hussin is the President and CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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