Planning of Mahathir’s new party


Zheng Bo Fu, Oriental Daily

These two weeks could be Mahathir’s toughest time in preparing for his new party. Based on evolving changes, it is not difficult to see that Mahathir has been trying to assuage concerns of traditional Malay voters while latching on to Pakatan Harapan. In other words, it can be said with certainty that he is still trying to test the water.

It is not easy to form a new party under current circumstances. Parti Amanah Negara faced the same problem last year. It was formed on the defunct Malaysian Workers’ Party. Thus, the new party under Mahathir may not be able to escape the constraints of the Registrar of Societies.

The new party has said openly that it is bumiputra-based. But it has not made clear whether it meant Muslim or non-Muslim bumiputras. If it is religion-oriented, it would be UMNO No 2. If it is bumiputra-oriented, it would be Sarawak’s PBB No 2.

If it is religion first and bumiputra second, it would cater mainly for UMNO malcontents and its scope would not be big. If it is bumiputra first and religion second, then its scope would be bigger, even to target at millions of bumiputras in East Malaysia.

Based on current situation, whether it is UMNO No 2 or PBB No 2, it would be impossible for the new party to have space to go beyond certain restrictions because the market has been saturated by Pakatan Harapan component parties.

And so how Mahathir should position his new party? Since Mahathir does not want to join PKR or any of the opposition parties, the positioning of the new party must be excellent to ensure its survival. Therefore, it is less likely that the new party would distinguish itself religiously because it has to accommodate Sabah strongman Shafie and his followers. It is more likely to be bumiputra-based.

Muhyiddin on the other hand looks more prudent. He chose first to co-operate with PKR in their road show to explain the 1MDB issue. His tactic may be to gauge the real strength of PKR and also to find out public sentiment. It is for testing the water before fine-tuning the new party.

Muhyiddin is killing three birds with one stone. What a foxy politician he is! However, it is not all for free. Muhyiddin, in borrowing the PKR platform, has also to recognize that PKR’s Wan Azizah is still the opposition leader in what could be a political transaction.

The US Justice Department report has forced Najib’s government to a dead alley. A dog would simply bite when it is cornered. The change of three top guns in MACC simultaneously indicates that all enforcement, investigation and supervisory agencies which could pose any potential threat have been properly settled.

By doing so, the Najib government may be able to sort out all internal incidents but external attack is still ferocious. They may not be able to shake Najib’s government, but they certainly would continue to weaken it and damage its image. The ringgit has been affected by political issues and Malaysia’s economic outlook does not seem good.

Mahathir and Muhyiddin are still cautious in their move. DAP has finally stopped pressing ahead of its proposed snap election in Penang but its bullying DNA is still there and there are still ill-feelings among opposition parties. Opposition parties still look like a tray of lose sand. There is room for further improvement in their co-operation.