KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad officially launched the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM), pledging to unite the opposition to overthrow Prime Minister Najib Razak's government ahead of the 14th General Election (GE14).
Speaking at a packed Stadium Malawati in Shah Alam which has a capacity of about 10,000 people, Dr Mahathir made a string of pledges, most notably to abolish the hugely unpopular goods and services tax (GST).
Since coming into force since 2015, the six per cent GST has been blamed for the rising cost of living - a burden for most Malaysians.
Dr Mahathir promises to abolish GST if the opposition were to come into power in the next election GE14 . Crowd at Stadium Malawati cheers pic.twitter.com/4pC3N0hOUU— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) January 14, 2017
Dr Mahathir also pledged to undertake measures to improve the economy and the country's finances, especially the weakening ringgit.
He blamed Prime Minister Najib for giving the country a bad name after billions in state investment fund 1MDB were allegedly misappropriated as national debts piled up. Mr Najib and 1MDB have denied any wrongdoing.
Dr Mahathir pledged that if the opposition were to form a new government, it would review some of the contracts Mr Najib's government have entered into, including the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail and the East Coast rail link, which he said would further increase government debts.
Dr Mahathir, who quit UMNO early last year, also urged UMNO leaders including its members to leave the party as it is no longer worth fighting for. "When a leader has betrayed the party, and he cant be removed, then the only option for you is to leave, there's no point staying."
He called on all opposition parties to unite ahead of GE14 to form a formidable coalition in order to avoid three-cornered fights.
"There should only be one candidate contesting under one party, one logo ... those who refuse to cooperate by fielding its own candidates are actually supporting UMNO, betraying the people."
It is an apparent swipe at the opposition Islamic party PAS, which is bent on working with UMNO to push for the so-called 'hudud' bill to enhance punishment for syariah courts.
PPBM's party president Muhyiddin Yassin also urged the oppposition parties to put aside their differences to form a viable alternative. "We have to save the nation, this is the reason why we are here, to save the nation ... we will never win if we can't come together. It must be one-on-one fight."
"This is just the beginning, the work starts now, there must be a sense of urgency to put together a people's front, or barisan rakyat."
Mr Najib is widely expected to call the election this year although GE14 is not due till mid-2018.