The return to the throne of 93-year-old former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appears to have stirred some cemented belief in winning the forthcoming poll by newly-formed opposition party, the National Patriotic Front (NPF).
Perhaps it could inspire a possible comeback of former president Robert Mugabe.
The two strongmen share almost a similar political career script, which principally has been the basis of a rather obstinate thought that belies the NPF that Mugabe — the party’s founding elder — could defy the odds and make a similar stunning comeback to contest and win Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections.
Mohamad, a long time personal friend of Mugabe’s, was prime minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, making him the longest-serving leader in that country.
During his reign, he became friends with Mugabe, especially immediately after the year 2000 when Mugabe’s government fell out with the Western powers over Harare’s chaotic land reform programme and sought alternative allies in the Far East.
Mugabe would over the years frequent the far flung Asian nation for both recreational and medical reasons.
Mohamad served his first lengthy period in office under the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), before forming his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Malaysian United Indigenous Party, MUIP) just two years ago in 2016 at the age of 91.
In the Thursday election, Mohamad brushed aside doubts that he would become Malaysia’s prime minister again following his shock election victory over the UMNO which had ruled the Southeast Asian nation for 61 years — since Malaysia got independence from Britain in 1957.
On his part, Mugabe — who is just a year older than Mohamad — ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 to November last year when he was ousted in a soft coup.
Mugabe did not waste time to determine his political future as he played the leading role in the formation of the NPF which has said it would challenge his old party, Zanu PF, at this year’s general elections.
Although the party’s interim leader is Ambrose Mutinhiri, conflicts that have rocked it in recent weeks are seen as calculated attempts to bring in a new leader, possibly Mugabe who still commands considerable popularity in the countryside.
The authoritarian leader, Mohamad, is widely believed to have capitalised on the general sense of disgruntlement of Malaysians against the performance of Najib Razak, the man he has just succeeded.
Currently, there is general dissatisfaction with President Emmerson Mnangagwa owing to his administration’s apparent failure to tame the economy back on track after years of plunder.
And one of the key NPF exponents, Jonathan Moyo, has been quite excitable; subtly suggesting that Mugabe must draw inspiration from his old friend to take on his successor, Mnangagwa.
“Ninety-two-year-old former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s opposition party has ended Barisan Nasional (BN) party’s 61 year rule in Malaysia by winning the majority seats in elections on Wednesday. Mahathir set to be sworn in today (Thursday). Inspiring stuff,” Moyo cryptically tweeted.
Mugabe still qualifies to contest for the presidency of the country in terms of the 2013 Constitution since the only term he has served under was short-lived.
Section 91(2) of the Constitution says: “A person is disqualified for election as president or vice president if he or she has already held office as president under this Constitution for two terms, whether continuous or not.”
However, in terms of their economic performances, they are worlds apart.
When he left office, Mohamad left Malaysia’s economy booming whereas Mugabe left behind a ruined economy characterised by high levels of unemployment, low productivity and even shortage of money.
His salvation, however, could only arise from the fact that Mnangagwa has so far failed to turn around the economy.