Dr M’s newfound support group won’t last, analysts say


(Malay Mail Online) – The motley crew of politicians and activists who signed on last week as supporters of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “Citizens’ Declaration” will likely fall apart the moment they are faced with hard decisions, analysts said.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said differing ideologies will cause a rift in the group made up of Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, opposition party members and civil society activists, especially on the matter of who they want as prime minister.

“They will not be able to handle their different ideologies,”  he said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.

“When their goal of replacing (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) is not obtained in the near future, which is likely the case, what you described will happen,” he said when asked if the group’s differences in opinions would create splinters.

Dr Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Yusof Ishak Institute, echoed Oh’s statement, but said it was normal for such alliances to break-up.

He said this was especially true in Malaysian politics, labelling it the country’s “fate”.

“When a coalition does not break it, it is almost always due to the fact that one partner has become totally dominant.

“The possibility of a split is really par for the course,” he said in an email to Malay Mail Online.

For Centre for Policy Initiatives’ (CPI) director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, it will be Dr Mahathir’s declaration that will end up becoming a major contributor to the group’s predicted downfall.

Explaining this, he said the declaration signed last week seemed ill-conceived as it was publicly revealed in such a hasty manner.

“The decision to team up with a Dr Mahathir-driven declaration appears rushed, premature and ill-advised, however much it is justified. Strategic planning calls for set priorities, focussed energy and resources and common goals.

“The declaration ― as it stands ― lacks all the above. It does not appear different from what has emerged from other civil society/political reform efforts in the past; perhaps the input of Dr Mahathir is the lone difference,” he said in an email to Malay Mail Online.

He added that such an initiative would have been more effective after the March 27 rally, an event organised by former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to protest Najib’s administration.

This would have given more time for individuals supportive of the anti-Najib campaign to air their views and formulate a more comprehensive plan for Malaysia’s political future, he said.

“The movers of the declaration have to now work out a programme of action that can ensure that the declaration’s noble objectives become reality.

“Teaming up with Dr Mahathir is perhaps one step forward, and two steps backwards,” he added.

Ooi, however, was optimistic about the declaration, saying the never-before-seen cooperation between the opposition and key Umno leaders could indicate the downfall of race-based politics.

“What we may be seeing is the breaking down of the old way of doing politics. We may see new approaches to coalitional governance.

“So, aside from DAP and NGOs, we are seeing dissidents from within the Malay community coming together and rejecting Umno’s right to represent the community. This pushes the sense of being Malaysian above racial affiliations,” he said.

Last week, former prime minister Dr Mahathir spearheaded a so-called “Citizens Declaration” to demand Najib’s removal over a number of controversies.

The initiative was backed by an unlikely group of supporters that included among others politicians like Umno stalwarts Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, opposition strongmen like DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, PKR’s Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Parti Amanah Negara’s Mohamad Sabu and activists like Bersih 2.0’s Maria Chin Abdullah and National Human Rights Society (Hakam) chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.