In the run-up to the 14th general election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has totally outplayed Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, according to Zaid Ibrahim.
“If this were a chess game, Najib's opening move was a disaster,” said the former law minister in a blog posting this afternoon.
Zaid (photo) said Najib should not have allowed Bersatu, of which Mahathir is the chairperson, to be registered.
“People would have protested and rebuked Najib for being cruel and mendacious but at least Mahathir would not have a party through which to contest this election.
“Mahathir would not have been able to provide dissatisfied Umno members with an alternative Malay party,” he added.
The former minister claimed that with the current “massive show of support for Bersatu from Umno Malays”, Najib has been forced to take rearguard actions.
These, he said, included threatening to de-register Bersatu and forcing the party to hold an annual general meeting when one is not even due under the party’s constitution.
“But it is too late now, for Bersatu is alive and kicking,” he added.
Following this, Zaid said Najib had resorted to redrawing electoral boundaries, and also accused the Election Commission of registering phantom voters to save BN.
“This is foolish and serves no useful purpose,” he added.
Zaid said Mahathir's pitch to the Malay electorate was simple – Bersatu would better protect their interests than Umno.
“That has not been difficult to sell – look at what is happening with Felda, Felcra and Mara. Look at Tabung Haji. Look at the loss of Bumiputera lands in Johor. I am sure even more 'dirt' would surface soon. Mahathir has again come up tops,” he added.
Shifting his focus to Sabah and Sarawak, Zaid pointed out that certain BN strategists have claimed that the coalition has near absolute control of the 65 parliament seats in the states.
“I only have two observations to make: if Mahathir and Harapan capture more seats than BN in the Peninsula (according to my calculations the count currently stands at 95 to 70 in favour of Harapan despite postal votes and phantom voters), then why would East Malaysians favour Najib?
"They won’t. They are not robots; they will deal for sure.
“Secondly, if Najib is a serious chess player, he should be wondering why Mahathir has made no overtures to Sabah and Sarawak at all. It is naïve to think that he has no plans at all for East Malaysia. Chances are his plans are already well-entrenched, and that they focus on more than just (Parti Warisan Sabah president) Mohd Shafie Apdal,” he added.
Under these circumstances, Zaid advised Umno ministers and MPs to give serious thought to the game of chess.
“Maybe they should keep their options open. Maybe they should refrain from taking the loyalist position of (Communication and Multimedia Minister) Salleh Said Keruak, (Minister in the Prime Minister's Department) Abdul Rahman Dahlan and a few others who hold Najib up as a faultless and great leader.
“Maybe it is time they learn to play chess. Three months is enough to learn the basic moves to save their skin,” he said.