Mahathir & Mukhriz: Father & son team might swing Kedah for the opposition

Politics is a family hobby.

Sulaiman Daud | May 03, 2018, 02:39 AM

Johor gets a lot of attention during election time.

As one of the biggest and most economically-vibrant states in Malaysia, it is seen as politically important.

The party that wins Johor has a big advantage in the overall election.

But while attention is focused on Johor, Kedah is also emerging as another battleground state.

Ruling party foothold

In the previous general election of 2013, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in Kedah won 10 out of the 15 seats in the federal Dewan Rakyat (Lower House of Parliament), and 21 out of the 36 state assembly seats.

The winner of one of those seats? None other than Mukhriz Mahathir, son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The prodigal son

At the time, Mukhriz was a member of UMNO and the BN. He was an MP for the seat of Jerlun in Kedah, but he gave it up to contest a seat in the state assembly instead.

His gamble paid off, and after winning his 2013 election, Mukhriz was appointed the Menteri Besar or Chief Minister of Kedah.

He served until 2016, when he was relieved from his duties following a vote of no confidence from UMNO members in Kedah.

This came shortly after Mukhriz publicly criticised Prime Minister Najib Razak over the 1MDB scandal. He was also expelled from UMNO.

Mukhriz was out of a job and he had been kicked out of the party.

What's a politician to do?

Join the new party set up by your dad, of course.

New party no problem

Fortunately for Mukhriz, his father Mahathir had also left the party he was a member of for decades and formed his own, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).

Mukhriz will represent the PPBM as he competes for both the federal seat in Jerlun, which he held from 2008 to 2013, as well as the Jitra seat in the state assembly.

And some think he may have a shot at winning.

Bread-and-butter issues

Mukhriz has been working the ground and meeting with the voters, who frequently cite the high cost of living as one of their main concerns.

Perhaps due to the feedback he received, Mukhriz has made the unpopular Goods and Services Tax a major campaign issue.

Implemented by Najib in 2015, it currently stands at 6 percent.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition have included in their manifesto a promise to abolish the GST if they form the next government.

Mukhriz has wasted no time talking about the impact of the GST on the average Kedah voter.

Speaking at a rally on May 1, he said:

"When (Najib) says this, what does he mean... to fulfil the promises, once GE14 is done, the GST will go this with us. Today we go up (form the government), tomorrow we’ll abolish the GST."

Rural voters may also hold the key to unlocking an unlikely win for the opposition.


According to Serina Rahman, an academic with the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, rural voters have not forgotten the legacy of Mahathir Mohamad when he was Prime Minister.

Mukhriz himself is a familiar face, having served as Chief Minister.

He has promised to resume the plans he was carrying out if he wins this time, such as addressing Kedah's water issues and its programme of industrialisation.

The combination of their familiar names and their attention to bread-and-butter issues might garner them support in Kedah.

A storied legacy

A sure sign that the BN is worried about Kedah falling to the opposition is Najib's celebration of Chinese New Year on the island of Langkawi, promising RM1.3 billion (S$440 million) in development spending and giving away lucky draw prizes of a car and motorcycle.

Popular minister Khairy Jamaluddin has also visited Langkawi recently to drum up support for the BN and remind them that Mahathir's development of the island was only possible with UMNO's support.

To add to the BN's disquiet, a Malaysian researcher has predicted that Kedah will be faced with a "hung" state assembly, with the BN unable to win enough state seats to form a government in Kedah.

When it comes down to the wire, Kedah will be one to watch out for.

It is possible that Najib and the BN will win enough seats to form a new government, but both Mahathir and Mukhriz could very well win their respective Parliament seats.

The father and son team together in Parliament at the same time with Najib as Prime Minister? Watch the sparks fly.


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Top image by MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

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