Dr M's Umno exit: White knight or vindictive old man?
MAHATHIR Mohamad's resignation from Umno did not have the shock and awe of the first time he quit Umno.
It made news but his repeat performance was not exactly like Star Wars where every sequel has been a blockbuster.
People in Umno were not surprised because he had been the enemy from within for more than a year.
His own parting words to Umno were that it was no longer the party he knew and that it had become "Najib's party".
He had been in communication with key DAP and PKR leaders in the last few months.
They obviously knew of his impending resignation because several had issued run-up statements calling on him to work with the opposition.
Malaysia's most fascinating politician is about to enter new territory in his obsession to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak.
This time around, Dr Mahathir is joining forces with the opposition parties.
He is so consumed with overthrowing Mr Najib that he is prepared to work with parties and personalities whom he had previously denounced.
He has brought new meaning to the saying that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics.
"It looks like he has come around to supporting a regime change," said lawyer and former think-tank chief Khaw Veon Szu.
Umno leaders have tried to downplay his exit as something that will have limited impact on their party.
As some pointed out, he was doing a better job than the opposition even when he was inside.
They took care not to use harsh words to send him off but, deep inside, many are worried that he will take the warfare to a new level.
According to Mr Khaw, the elder politician has become the unofficial leader of the opposition. "He could be the trigger figure and that could be the game changer in the macro political scenario," he said.
The next election is going to be about Malay votes and Dr Mahathir's alliance with the opposition is bound to have an impact on the Malay electorate.
The big question now is whether his son Mukhriz Mahathir and suspended Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin will follow him out of Umno.
The spotlight will be on the pair's next moves and how they can help the opposition realise their ambitions of attaining federal power.
The grapevine in PKR has it that Mr Muhyiddin will be projected as the opposition's prime minister candidate.
He will fill the lacuna left by Anwar Ibrahim.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, it is said, will be a suitable deputy prime minister candidate.
None of those in the opposition could commit to a role for Mr Mukhriz as yet which means he will probably have to fight for it.
However, the PKR side is expecting Mr Muhyiddin to bring along a few MPs.
PKR politicians say he has to deliver the numbers and they hope he will not sit around or go on golfing holidays while others do the work.
Dr Mahathir had told several people he was disappointed Mr Muhyiddin had not gone around the country to garner support after losing his Cabinet job. He complained that Mr Muhyiddin had instead taken one holiday after another.
The former premier is believed to have been communicating with a leading opposition figure from around the time that Mr Muhyiddin was dropped from the Cabinet.
The presence of Dr Mahathir and Mr Muhyiddin at the wedding of Mr Azmin's daughter in December was a hint of the warming ties.
Dr Mahathir is also believed to have asked a top PKR leader for help at the height of the Kedah chief minister issue.
He asked the PKR leader if he could get opposition assemblymen in Kedah to support Mr Mukhriz so that he could continue as the chief minister.
Bizarre as it may sound, Dr Mahathir was plotting a scenario where his son, who had only three Barisan Nasional assemblymen with him, would survive with the support of the opposition - four from PKR, two from DAP, eight from PAS and one from Amanah.
It was less about the survival of Mr Mukhriz than the fact that he was prepared to do anything or cooperate with anyone to do Mr Najib in.
It was a good thing the plan fell through or else Mr Mukhriz would have made history for all the wrong reasons.
Dr Mahathir is quite incredible - 90 years and still unable to let go.
Some see him as a white knight and a hero, others think he is a vindictive old man.
As for the opposition, he is the best thing to have happened for them since the Pakatan Rakyat coalition went bust.
They see him as their saviour, never mind that they have condemned and blamed Umno for everything that has gone wrong under the sun.
But there is also something very sad about what he is doing, especially for those who have followed his long career.
Like Mr Najib, Dr Mahathir is also struggling with a credibility problem. He is guilty of almost everything that he has accused Mr Najib of. Hence, the lukewarm public interest in his second resignation.
But his image will probably undergo a makeover, thanks to his new best pals in the opposition. They will now proceed to paint him whiter than white so that he can help them revive their dream of Putrajaya.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK