Malaysia needs good opposition, but UMNO not united: Mahathir

Malaysia needs good opposition, but UMNO not united: Mahathir

In a 1-on-1 interview, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tells Channel NewsAsia's Sumisha Naidu the price at which Malaysia sells water to Singapore is "manifestly ridiculous". He also speaks about his relationship with Anwar Ibrahim and gives an update on investigations into ex-leader Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government needs good opposition, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said his former party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is not united as it prepares to elect a new president this Saturday (Jun 30).

UMNO was the largest party in the Barisan Nasional coalition that led Malaysia for more than six decades, until a stunning defeat to Dr Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan on May 9.

Since then, former PM Najib Razak has stepped down as its leader and there was an exodus of component parties soon after.

"Practically all of them have left, leaving only the three (UMNO, the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress)," he told Channel NewsAsia's Conversation With on Monday.

"And even among the three, we know that UMNO is losing a lot of their people, joining Pakatan Harapan parties and all that ... What is left is a group of people who do not seem to understand the realities."

Dr Mahathir said however, that "we need good opposition". 

"We do not want to have a situation where all the parties support the government - we want an opposition, because I have always maintained that the opposition is like a mirror," he explained.

"We can see whether we have pockmarks on our face or not ... but if we don’t have a mirror, you think you're very beautiful, but actually you have a twisted nose or half blind eyes."


UMNO has this month been electing new party leaders with the top guns to be chosen this weekend. 

For the first time in its party's history, there have been multiple challengers across the board - with seven members submitting nominations to contest the president's post, putting an end to years of no-contest culture.

While one of the contenders, former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi, said this reflected a more democratic UMNO, Dr Mahathir believes it is a sign of disunity.

"The fact that there are many contestants means that they're not united," he told Channel NewsAsia. 

"Before this, they would unite behind the leader to the point where the president’s post is not contested at all. 

"But now everybody wants to grab their position and whether you like it or not, when you have a contest, you divide. The members will be divided."

Aside from Mr Zahid, former UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin and royal-blooded UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh are vying for the presidency.  

Each have promised a plan to rejuvenate the party ahead of the next general election which must be called by 2023.

Source: CNA/ad(cy)