KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has alleged that Prime Minister Najib Razak cheated in order to win the Pekan parliament seat in 1999.
The allegation, made in a speech at Balik Pulau on Saturday, drew a retort from Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak, who said Mahathir was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” to find something with which to paint Najib as an unworthy prime minister.
Mahathir, speaking at a rally organised by his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, said: “Najib will cheat. In 1999, when he almost lost in Pekan, he resorted to bringing in Orang Asli people and soldiers, and they were forced to support him. As a result, he won with just 200 votes.”
Salleh said Mahathir was showing how desperate he was to find issues to speak on in his campaign against Najib.
“I am not sure whether Malaysia should take seriously what Mahathir says nowadays,” he said. “For example, he said Lim Kit Siang cannot become the prime minister because his party is small. What does Mahathir mean by ‘small’? Is he talking about membership? The number of party members does not count in determining who becomes PM. It is how many seats your party wins in Parliament.”
He recalled that the claim of alleged cheating in Pekan was first made by the opposition 18 years ago.
“That same year there were also many issues regarding Mahathir that the opposition raised,” he told FMT. “Some of those allegations were, in fact, even worse.”
Umno supreme council member Bung Mokhtar Radin also rejected Mahathir allegation, saying it didn’t make sense because no one could be forced to vote for a party or a person.
In his speech, Mahathir offered an “apology to everyone” for being responsible for Najib’s rise to power.
“I don’t know how I got deceived,” he said, “but I am often deceived by people.”
He also claimed that Najib’s administration would force the military to support Barisan Nasional.
“We request our soldiers to vote according to their own wishes, not as forced by anyone,” he said.
In 1999, Najib retained the Pekan seat by edging out Ramli Mohamed of PAS with a majority of 241 votes from the 26,055 valid votes cast.
He first won the seat in 1976 and has held it since, except for the period between 1982 and 1986. In the 1982 general election, he ran for a state seat and became Pahang menteri besar for one term. – FMT