KUALA LUMPUR: Only the people can change the prime minister through the ballot box, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Sunday (Apr 28), in what appeared to be a response to remarks by Johor Crown Prince Ismail Sultan Ibrahim that it was better to change the premier than the head coach of the southern state’s football team.
Speaking to reporters at the end of his visit to China to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Dr Mahathir said: “We still remember that there was once a TMJ (Tunku Mahkota Johor) and he was changed, and his place was given to his younger brother."
“So, TMJ can be changed (without the people’s votes). The prime minister, however, can only be changed by the (votes of the) people,” he added.
The prime minister was referring to the case of late Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail of Johor, then the crown prince, when he lost the status in 1961 over alleged misbehaviour.
He was replaced by his younger brother. In 1981, Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail was re-appointed as the crown prince shortly before his father's death.
Dr Mahathir added: “If he can vote, then let him use his vote to change me.
"He's not a big man, just a small one. If he wants to change the prime minister, he is welcome to vote."
In a recent viral video, the crown prince said: "Instead of changing (Johor Darul Tazim’s coach Benjamin) Mora, it's better to change the prime minister."
Last week, the team’s chances of reaching the next stage of the AFC Champions League was dented after it suffered a second straight defeat at the hands of China's Shandong Luneng. Some fans have called for the coach to be removed.
The Johor royal family and Dr Mahathir have been embroiled in a row over the recent change in the state's chief minister, among other things.
Last Wednesday, Dr Mahathir wrote on his blog that the winning political party can reject the monarch’s choice of candidate through a motion of no confidence in the assembly.
A day later, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar called for Putrajaya and Johor to set aside their differences and have a mature discussion.
“It’s better to meet and discuss in a mature way for everyone’s sake, especially the people,” he had said.