It appears as though not even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was expecting to win Malaysia's 14th General Election.
Speaking on Aug. 13 to a gathering of MPs from the Pakatan Harapan coalition and Parti Warisan Sabah at a dinner function in Petaling Jaya, Mahathir was candid about the coalition's expectations going into the election. He allegedly said:
"Actually we did not expect to win, we made a thick manifesto with all kinds of promises...we must fulfil our promises which is why we can't make promises that we cannot fulfil."
Mahathir's comments were reported by news portal Malaysiakini, who cited sources who attended the closed-door event.
He spoke of the possibility of a "backlash" from the voting public if the coalition did not fulfil their promises:
"We need to make sacrifices to fulfil our promises. If we can't fulfil them, we will need a good reason that is acceptable to the people.
If we fail to deliver on our promises, the Opposition will use it against us and we may be defeated."
Book of pledges
The PH's manifesto, which you can read for yourself here, did include a number of ambitious promises.
Perhaps the most eye-catching is PH's pledge to eliminate the Goods and Services Tax, which was introduced by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
Other economic measures include raising the national minimum wage, and granting fuel subsidies to certain groups.
The PH also promised to abolish the Sedition Act, and limit the tenures of the Prime Minister to just two terms.
An awkward promise
According to Malaysiakini, one specific promise Mahathir mentioned during the dinner function was PH's pledge to accord the Leader of the Opposition (the leader of the largest political party in Malaysia not in power) the status of a Federal Minister.
This proposal, which is listed on Page 44 under "Promise 16: Restore the Dignity of Parliament" reads:
"The Leader of the Opposition will be granted the status and provisions equivalent to a Federal Minister."
However, according to Mahathir, the PH made this promise only because they expected to lose the election and remain the Opposition. He said:
"But we won and now it feels uncomfortable to give the opposition leader an equal rank to a minister. That is the problem when we make promises."
Time is of the essence
Observers have expressed doubts that the PH could implement its promises as quickly as hoped.
During a seminar hosted by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on July 17, Associate Professor Azmi Sharom at the University of Malaya’s Faculty of Law pointed out that some of their promises might require a Constitutional Amendment.
He cited PH's promise to separate the Office of the Attorney General from that of the Public Prosecutor, and said:
"It’s not going to be easy. They will require some serious legal thinking."
Activist Cynthia Gabriel, who also spoke at the seminar, said that the PH had to live up to their campaign promises:
"The new party put everything in their manifesto. Now they need to implement those promises."
It looks like Mahathir would agree with her.
Top image from Mahathir Mohamad's Facebook page.