These days, the news that make headlines are all to do with Dr Mahathir Mohamad. There is no doubt that Mahathir is popular.
So, what exactly is it about Dr Mahathir that makes this man so influential in Malaysian politics? The answer is quite simple. Mahathir has ideas. The nine million visitors who visit his blog can testify to the power of these ideas.
Many believe that with the resignation of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, ‘Mahathirism’ is making a comeback. Some even suggested that it was the unseen hand of Mahathir who brought down the Abdullah premiership. All this is making Mahathir even more popular. Malaysians love winners.
The reality is more significant than Dr Mahathir himself or the fortunes of the political party that he once led. What has been demonstrated here is that the Internet can and has brought an early end to the ruling cabinet.
So, it might be pertinent to learn more about what this so-called Mahathirism is all about. Of course, entire books have been written about this man and his ideas. Some have labelled him a racist, some call him a patriot, others think of him and shudder at the thought of a return to ‘authoritarianism’.
But not until now have we really gotten to know Mahathir without the intervention of newspaper editors or TV directors. Through his blog, Mahathir comes across as a pragmatic, combative and unyielding personality.
Like a true politician, he is not above using whatever advantages that his political opponents have given him. He understands human psychology and is willing to press all the right buttons to get his way. This with regard to race, religion and patriotism, just to name three.
But just as his blog has allowed us to know how he thinks or the way he uses logic to persuade, it has also exposed Mahathir to a host of alternative views that he would otherwise never have a chance to read.
Hence, Mahathir warns Umno about corruption. It is not as though the former Umno president does not know about money politics. What he is telling Umno is that the party risks losing the next general elections because it is perceived to be a corrupt party.
Mahathir also understands that the public is now aware of the old BN strategy. One upmanship, which is what the MCA and Umno are now doing over the issue of the NEP and the 30 percent bumiputera equity, is clear for all to see.
In the past, Umno could ignore the urban electorate but now it recognises that the majority of Malays live in urban areas. Many of them are educated and very vocal. What were once the ‘ungrateful’ Malay middle-class fringe is now the powerhouse of PKR and PAS.
Mahathir is also urging Umno to win the hearts and minds of the younger generation. We all know why ruling coalitions never rule forever. Its most loyal members eventually grow old and die. They are not replaced quickly enough.
In Malaysia, the problem is very acute because we are a very young country. Those born before 1970 account for more than 60 percent of the population. There will be one million new voters come 2013.
Instead of hiding or ignoring this reality, Mahathir is urging Umno and the BN to get their act together. The remedy for this current set-back is strong leadership, robust economic growth and more sophisticated ways of communicating.
Mahathir knows that none in Umno today can match his protege Anwar Ibrahim in the communications game. He also knows that Umno cannot match the religious credibility of PAS. The BN component parties particularly the MCA and the MIC are still unable to adjust to the new reality.
They do not know what to do now that the electorate ha caught on to their game. Umno-bashing is not impressing us one bit especially when there is no parliamentarian willing to even have the ISA reviewed.
It might be wise for the BN to understand what Mahathirism is all about. It has very little to do with rhetoric. It has more to do with deeds, particularly tangible multi-storey ones. By now, Malaysians expect a blueprint that is sustainable and can be implemented.
Where will we be in the next twenty years. Najib Abdul Razak and whomever else who aspires to be the next PM must be able to tell us where we are headed.
Of course, Mahathir still feels that ethnic groups must be managed separately. He is not comfortable with the idea of abolishing NEP-like policies or even to make them merit-based. Politicians have come out defending the NEP by suggesting that we all benefitted from it.
No doubt they did, so that argument does not work anymore. Surely, they can think better. Instead, they look to Mahathir.
Nothing wrong in looking to someone experienced except that they may consider some ideas ‘sacred’. The real problem is that the clock is ticking and time is not on Mahathir's side.
So he is leaving his political heirs a legacy of ideas. So far, there has not been any real blueprint on how to fulfill our national aspirations of becoming a united nation.
A multi-ethnic coalition riddled with corruption and weighed down by ‘slow’ leaders are not inspiring confidence. True, the opposition is still finding its feet but none of the states they rule have run into a crisis not even with the biased media ever watchful to blow them up if only through fiction.
Therein lies the problem of having giants like Mahathir. He has proven himself to be truly unique. The fear is that Umno and the BN have no more aces to play.