Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday that ruling coalition may fail to hold on to the power if it doesn't stop the infighting and implement changes. After joining forces with former political opponents, Mahathir led the Alliance of Hope or the Pakatan Harapan coalition to a massive victory in the general election of May 2018. This brought to an end the six-decade rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition.

It should be noted that Mahathir's coalition has lost five by-elections since then, including one over the weekend and polls have shown waning popularity among the public. He told reporters in Langkawi that the party has lost five by-elections but "they still don't understand."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad Wikimedia Commons

"I told them in a democracy you need strong support from the people. But instead they fight amongst themselves and divide the people... They are not going to win unless they change their ways," he said.

Mahathir's four-party coalition came to power on promises of reforms and widespread disgust over corruption. Former premier Najib Razak, who was defeated by Mahathir, was caught in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB. Najib is currently on trial for corruption.

Failure to deliver promised reforms

Nearly two years since the unexpected win, the government has been increasingly criticized for failing to deliver promised reforms on governance and human rights quickly and to protect the rights of the majority ethnic Malays.

There has also been uncertainty over Mahathir's promised handover of power to his coalition partner Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir had said he would hand over the premiership to his former foe Anwar two years after winning the 2018 elections. But doubts have grown after Mahathir said he needed more time to steer the heavily-indebted country out of its troubles first.

World's oldest Prime Minister

The 94-year-old premier reiterated on Monday he would give way to Anwar after November when Kuala Lumpur will host world leaders for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, and before the coalition's five-year term is completed in 2023.

But he again declined to commit to a specific timeline. "When the time comes, I feel that I have done all I can, I will step down," he said. Mahathir was Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister from 1981 to 2003, when he retired from politics. In 2018 when he again won office he became the world's oldest leader aged 92.

(With agency inputs)