As Opposition parties clash in Johor, Mukhriz says Anwar not uniting Pakatan like Dr Mahathir did
Mukhriz blamed Anwar for splitting the Opposition vote in Johor, alleging the latter was not sincere in wanting to bring all Opposition parties together.
(MMO) – With dozens of Opposition overlaps in the Johor state election, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir has criticised Pakatan Harapan chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for not doing more to unify the bloc.
In an interview with Malay Mail, Mukhriz was asked to comment on the apparent disunity among the Opposition parties, such as PKR’s decision to use its own logo while DAP and Amanah contested as PH.
“We didn’t quite understand that within Pakatan itself they are having two logos, so what happened to the big tent? So how do you contest under a big tent when you have things like that?” he said after a meet-and-greet session in Rengit town on Saturday.
As recently as January, Anwar had said he planned to rope in all Opposition parties — including Pejuang — to ensure that Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno would be defeated at the state polls.
But his so-called “big tent” approach has not yet materialised, as evidenced by the severe clashes among the federal Opposition parties for the March 12 state election.
Mukhriz, the son of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, also went as far as saying Anwar appeared to be acting primarily on behalf of PKR instead of PH or the larger Opposition.
“This is my assessment from the outside as an outsider. Perhaps my opinion is not valid but that’s how I see it that even between them (Pakatan component parties) there’s no true leadership of PH.
“You’d remember it was Tun (Dr Mahathir) before GE14 who decided that all four PH parties should come together and we would contest under the PKR logo, the thinking behind it was to unite all of us but what’s happened to PH now, two different logos, disunited.
“Ironically it was Tun who did it for the first time. Now Tun is not in PH anymore and they cannot get their act together on their own so how are we supposed to come in under the big tent?” he said.
Prior to the 14th General Election in 2018, Dr Mahathir — then the de facto leader of PH — had announced that all its parties would contest using a common logo regardless of the Registrar of Societies’ (RoS) decision on the coalition’s application to be formally registered.
When the PH application had been rejected, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and PKR all contested under the logo of the last party, and went on to an unlikely victory in the 14th general election.
However, the coalition government collapsed in February 2020 when Dr Mahathir unexpectedly resigned as the PM.
Splitting Opposition votes
Pejuang has been accused of splitting the Opposition vote in Johor, after the Malay-centric party announced its entry into the state election by contesting 42 seats, which led to inevitable clashes with PH in all.
Mukhriz conceded that the situation was disappointing but again blamed Anwar for the matter, alleging the latter was not sincere in wanting to bring all Opposition parties together.
“He (Anwar) didn’t talk to us, there was no real serious discussion about this ‘big tent’ and we only heard about it through the media. There was no real engagement with us.
“We have now decided we’re not going to be part of the ‘big tent’ and now they are saying we are splitting the votes. It conflicts,” he said..
The Jerlun MP also said Pejuang’s participation in the Johor election was not intended to split Opposition support but to gauge his party’s standing among voters heading into the next general election that must be held by next year.
However, Mukhriz also conceded that it would have been difficult for his party to align with PH due to past issues, which subsequently led to them deciding to go separate ways.
“We (Pejuang) were the third bloc with the likes of Parti Warisan Sabah and the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) but then there was no serious approach by them to try and bring us together to see how we can get into this Johor state election by divvying up the seats,” Mukhriz added.
Time will tell on two logos
Despite PKR and PH’s reasons, the usage of two different logos would reflect disunity at a glance, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid has said.
“Whether it’s the right or wrong move will only become clear in the light of the (election) results,” he said when contacted.
However, Ahmad Fauzi said PKR could have valid reasons for wanting to use its own logo in the election instead of the common PH symbol.
“Johor is largely Malay ground; Felda constituencies forming a significant portion of the seats.
“Without Bersatu, breaking into Malay ground would be an arduous task. The PKR logo lends a more Malay look to the party’s campaign than the PH logo,” Ahmad Fauzi added.
Bersatu had been a component of the Pakatan coalition when it won the 14th general election in 2018, but quit to align itself with the Umno-led BN coalition and PAS, to wrest federal power.
While Bersatu is still a ruling party and partnered with PAS in the Perikatan Nasional coalition, it will challenge Umno and BN in the Johor election.
With election campaigning in full swing, Ahmad Fauzi said it was now crucial for PH parties to convince voters that separate logos was a strategic decision and not symptomatic of growing divisions.
The Election Commission has set polling day for Johor on March 12, while early polling is on March 8.