Mahathir Vows to Fight 30-Day Party Ban Ahead of Malaysia Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad will fight against an order delivered on the eve of an election to temporarily ban his party from campaigning.

He said in an interview Friday that he plans to appeal the notice to disband his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) for 30 days, and continue to run. Prime Minister Najib Razak said later in the day he would dissolve parliament effective Saturday, after which an election must be held within two months.

Mahathir Vows to Fight 30-Day Party Ban Ahead of Malaysia Vote

“Our strategy is to carry on,” Mahathir said at his office in Kuala Lumpur. “They can take action against us. They can arrest us. Of course, we will go to the court and argue our case.”

If his coalition wins the election, Mahathir said he expects growth at around 6 percent and pledged to give greater independence to the central bank. He also warned currency traders against “manipulating” the ringgit, which would be met with a peg, and planned to replace the 6 percent goods-and-services tax with levies on company’s profits and a sales tax, he said.

Deadline Failure

The action by the Registry of Societies Malaysia was triggered when Mahathir’s party PPBM failed to meet a deadline to supply some information and documents by March 29, registry director-general Surayati Ibrahim said Thursday. The party can either appeal the ban or submit the documents -- if it doesn’t it will be deregistered, Surayati said. She did not specify what information the registry was seeking.

The registry asked PPBM to submit minutes of meetings from the party’s branches, which haven’t been formed, Mahathir said.

“How can we submit minutes of the meeting of bodies which are not there?” he said. “We have answered all the questions that she said we haven’t answered.”

He plans to submit an appeal to Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the former premier said late Thursday at a briefing. If the appeal is rejected, the party will challenge the decision in the courts, he added.

At a briefing several weeks ago, Mahathir said candidates would contest the election under the name of another party in the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition if needed.

Still, the registry’s move could be a setback to Mahathir’s campaign against Najib. Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s longest-serving leader and once headed the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, fell out with Najib several years ago and has since become his most strident public critic.

Pakatan Harapan has been counting on Mahathir to win over the rural Malay heartland, long regarded as Barisan Nasional’s vote bank and the key to breaking its 60-year rule.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.