Pejuang is doomed with Mahathir’s exit, say analysts

(FMT) – Two analysts predict that Pejuang will sink deeper into the doldrums with the resignation of its chairman, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia told FMT they could not see much of a future for the party under its president, Mukhriz Mahathir, who is the former chairman’s son.

Oh said Mukhriz did not have what it would take to bring the party forward.

“Mukhriz has always appeared to be half-hearted in his political career,” he said, adding that he could not recall the former Jerlun MP taking any remarkable political action “beyond resigning as Kedah menteri besar twice”.

Mukhriz stepped down as menteri besar after losing the support of the majority of his party’s assemblymen following a two-week long political crisis in 2016. In 2020, he once again lost the support of most assemblymen and was forced to give up the post.

Oh added that Pejuang had always been a Mahathir-centric party. “Without Mahathir, it appears the party will sink into further oblivion.”

Mahathir founded Pejuang in 2020 after quitting Bersatu. He quit the chairman’s post last week but remains as an ordinary party member and as chairman of Gerakan Tanah Air, a loose coalition of Malay-based groups including Pejuang, NGOs, academics and professionals. The coalition was formed a few months before the recent general election.

Another Pejuang leader, Khairuddin Abu Hassan, has stepped down as the party’s Federal Territories chief and central executive council member, saying he had lost confidence in the party president’s leadership.

Azmil said he did not think Mukhriz was in any position to lead a “dying party” that had gone though a major defeat in GE15.

Mukhriz tried to defend the Jerlun parliamentary seat but lost to Perikatan Nasional’s Abdul Ghani Ahmad, who won with a 20,456 majority in a four-cornered fight. Mukhriz got only 3,144 votes.

Both Mahathir and Mukhriz were among the party’s 369 candidates who not only lost but also had their deposits forfeited, having received less than one-eighth of the votes cast.

Azmil saw Pejuang fighting a losing battle in an already-crowded political field with Umno, Bersatu and PAS all vying for Malay votes.

He said it was hard to see Pejuang with much of a future in Malaysian politics as many of its leaders were likely to leave the party to join the likes of PN and Barisan Nasional.