KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang), the political party helmed by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, has confirmed that it will be contesting 42 out of the 56 seats in the upcoming Johor state election.
However, Dr Mahathir will not be travelling to Johor for the campaigning period on doctor’s advice to safeguard his health.
Pejuang launched its manifesto during a press conference on Wednesday (Feb 23), where Dr Mahathir made his first media appearance since he was discharged from hospital on Feb 5.
Dr Mahathir said in the press conference that he thinks Pejuang has “a good chance” in the upcoming polls.
“Although we are just contesting 42 seats, we hope that people who dislike corruption, dislike shamelessness and dislike the old ways will support us,” said Dr Mahathir.
“We are focused on quality candidates. They are not involved in corruption and have no interest in getting rich on politics. They are not all politicians. They are nationalists who want our country to be governed correctly,” he added.
The Member of Parliament for Langkawi said that some of the candidates Pejuang will put forth have never been involved in politics before this, but they are keen to enter the political arena to bring about change in government.
“They are angry with how politics have been misused by certain politicians. They want to find a way so that people like these have no place. That’s why they agreed to become candidates, not for themselves but for the party,” said Dr Mahathir.
The two-time former premier also unveiled Pejuang’s election manifesto entitled “Aspiration for Johor”, which includes brief plans to close the economic gap between different districts across the state as well as to boost Johor’s status as a southern economic hub.
Pejuang will be making its electoral debut in Johor.
Johor’s state election will be held on Mar 12, with nominations to take place on Feb 26.
Its state assembly was dissolved by Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar on Jan 22 following his consent for the dissolution after meeting with Mr Hasni Mohammad, the incumbent chief minister .
Prior to the dissolution, Mr Hasni justified that his state government needed a fresh mandate as it only held a slim majority following the death of former chief minister Osman Sapian in December last year.
Mr Hasni said that the election was necessary as the stability of the Johor state government was a prerequisite for investors and businesses to expand their operations in the state.
With the death of Mr Osman, who was also state assemblyman for Kempas, the Johor state government held a one-seat majority, with Barisan Nasional (BN) in control of 16 seats while its coalition partners Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) held 11 seats and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) had one.
The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, comprising Democratic Action Party (DAP), Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), held 27 seats.
For the upcoming polls, local media have reported on disunity among and within the opposition political parties.
There have been reports of PKR and new party Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) clashing over seat allocations.
DAP also reportedly suffered infighting.
When asked to comment on how the opposition will fare in the upcoming polls, Dr Mahathir stated that they have been distracted with the idea of becoming the next chief minister only.
“As far as the opposition is concerned, as you know, they're all fighting each other. For them, the most important struggle in Johor is to become the chief minister, not to become a good government,” said Dr Mahathir.
“So there is a difference between them and us. We are alone, only one party. We have a good number of candidates … and I think we can provide the kind of leadership that is needed, “ he added.
"I DIDN’T THINK I COULD RECOVER”: MAHATHIR ON HEALTH SCARE
When asked to comment on his health, Dr Mahathir acknowledged that he was surprised that he managed to recover from his recent health scare.
“I have recovered, to my surprise. I didn’t think I could recover but I have recovered. And as you see I can still talk, I can still think and I can still be logical because I have really recovered,” said Dr Mahathir.
“But of course recovery is not 100 per cent, the doctors insist that I be careful,” he added.
On Jan 22, local media reported that journalists had descended on the National Heart Institute (IJN) as news spread that Dr Mahathir had been admitted to the hospital’s coronary care unit (CCU).
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also visited the IJN where he met with Dr Mahathir's wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali.
A day later, Dr Mahathir’s daughter Marina confirmed that her father was still receiving treatment, but she added that the 96-year-old politician had "interacted with" family members.
Dr Mahathir was later discharged on Feb 5.
Although Dr Mahathir maintained that he has recovered, travelling to Johor to campaign for the election was not an option because of fears that he could be infected with COVID-19.
Malaysia is reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases amid the spread of the Omicron variant, with daily caseload hitting more than 20,000.
On Tuesday, Malaysia confirmed 27,179 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total cases since the pandemic to about 3.27 million.
Dr Mahathir said: “As to visiting Johor, I would like to, but I cannot go to Johor because the doctors say they cannot guarantee that I won’t be infected and become (seriously ill as a result). Because of my age and also because I have recovered from a very serious sickness. If I am attacked again, I don’t know what the result will be.”
“But as you can see and I think you can hear, I am able to function and I know what is happening in the country … and I think I can contribute towards the struggle of Johor,” he added.