The main question everyone has been asking each other since Saturday evening – what now that Dr Mahathir has suffered what had been termed as a ‘humiliating defeat’ in UMNO's Kubang Pasu division ballot?
He has definitely lost the right to address the UMNO general assembly after he obtained only 227 votes. He came in ninth among 15 candidates vying for seven delegates' positions.
Some observers said Dr Mahathir is finished as a force in Malaysian politics.
For example, Abdul Razak Baginda of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre said: "It's a pity that he actually went through that because for someone who reached the top of his career, it is as if David Beckham was playing for some unknown club."
He criticised Mahathir's campaign of attacking the current Prime Minister with accusations of betrayal, nepotism and unwise policy decisions.
Abdul Razak averred: "He is too emotionally driven. He as a former prime minister can criticise anybody but why do it within the system."
Mohammad Agus Yusoff from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia believed Mahathir's defeat reflected the broad view of UMNO, indicating its support of AAB. He sounded like a staunch pro-AAB bloke.
He said: "It was one way for the people to show that Mahathir's political days are gone. Even in his own constituency they do not want him to interfere in the aspect of division politics anymore."
"To get humiliated, that was his choice, but I don't think it is proper for Mahathir to stand for a small election, although he may have his own agenda."
The above two have been more wishful thinking than objective analyses.
Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, an UMNO watcher, gave a more correct projection of what Dr Mahathir would be doing. He said Mahathir's days in the headlines are far from over.
He hit the mark when he said: "What he has decided politically is not to be a prime minister, but to be a critic. I don't see Mahathir ending anything, he's just taking another lane."
As a 'critic'! That's what Dr Mahathir had been doing and what he will continue doing. The failure to be elected as a delegate merely meant that he won't have a convenient platform to air his views directly to UMNO members, but does that mean he's shut up?
The reality is Mahathir will continue his campaign of criticising AAB's policies which the Grand Ole Man sees as benefiting only you-know-who or policies that he deems to be subservient to a foreign power.
Mohammad Agus would like to believe that "The people did not reject him because of anti-Mahathir campaigns. They did not vote for him because in UMNO politics if you are not in power, you do not have influence anymore."
He is partially right as power does equate to lucrative rewards for the ‘loyal’ (whatever that word means), but why deny that there wasn’t any anti-Mahathir threats and pressure brought to bear forcefully on many voting delegates prior to the election.
While those pro-AAB commentators would like to conclude that Dr Mahathir had suffered an unrecoverable ‘humiliating defeat’ they have studiously avoided mentioning that, despite the intense and ferocious pressure from the very top leaders of UMNO, with ministers loitering around Kubang Pasu, and an army of staff from government organs and university UMNO members working against Dr Mahathir, he still managed to secure a considerable number (227) of ‘defiant & loyal’ votes to place him as No 9.
Expect to hear more from Dr Mahathir, unless he leaves this world forever.
Is Dr Mahathir still relevant?