Could the 3Ms form the Third Force?


Scott Ng, FMT

The political futures of Muhyiddin Yassin and Mukhriz Mahathir are in limbo, now that they have been sacked from Umno after a year of confrontation between former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s forces and those loyal to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Muhyiddin’s fall from grace is particularly spectacular. Last year, he was merely a step away from the PM’s post. But he quickly became sidelined from Umno after he chose to speak against the 1MDB. He has cut a forlorn figure since, never materialising into the galvanizing, unifying leader Mahathir hoped he would become so that he could be a figurehead for the anti-Najib movement.

Mukhriz by and large kept his nose clean of his father’s affairs, but only until he was removed some months ago from the post of Kedah Menteri Besar. That dismissal was widely seen as the vicarious political punishment that his father had earned. Mukhriz has since taken and active part in the anti-Najib movement.

Now, this recent turn of events raises the question of whether Mahathir, Mukhriz and Muyhiddin – the so-called 3Ms – can form the core of a third force? One might have imagined the third force to be one that would be driven by moderate Malaysia, perhaps spearheaded by Zaid Ibrahim, but should the 3Ms form their own political bloc, they may have enough influence to gather allies and put together a war chest to empower a credible force in anticipation of GE14.

Ostensibly, their anti-Najib alignment would make an alliance with Pakatan Harapan the most logical move, but PKR would present a problem. Many of its members are fiercely loyal to Anwar Ibrahim. They would be loath to have any meaningful relationship with Mahathir, the man they see as being ultimately responsible for their jailed leader’s downfall. DAP and Amanah, though, have thus far shown a willingness to break bread with Mahathir.

However, it is safe to say that many supporters of Pakatan will not be comfortable with too close an alignment between the coalition and a group of politicians considered to be Umno thorougbreds. If such an alignment further fractures Pakatan and alienates a section of its support base, then the three parties in the coalition must either reject the third force or organise their coalition around it.

One thing is for sure, though: the opposition parties, including PAS, cannot match BN’s war chest on their own, and with the whispers already beginning about GE14 being held next year, one can imagine the ruling coalition already starting to amass the funds necessary to deploy its particular ground game and election machinery.

Mahathir, the veteran politician that he is, will be the maker of a difference for whichever of the opposition parties that chooses to align itself with the 3Ms. One cannot discount the gratitude he has accrued through years of perfecting the same machinery that Najib is now using to ruthless effect. The funding that can come as a result of such gratitude will empower the third force’s machinery to levels that might even match BN’s.

Either way, one cannot expect the 3Ms to sit still for long. The dismissal of Muhyiddin and Mukhriz has finalised the divorce between the Umnos of Mahathir and Najib. We may well be seeing a realignment of Malaysian politics in the coming weeks.