The move to place Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) as the head of Pakatan Harapan is part of a plan to secure Malay support in the next general election, according to coalition insiders.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, those familiar with the matter said the idea of Bersatu triggering a “Malay tsunami” has divided the parties, with some believing this is the key to Harapan’s victory over the Umno-led ruling government in the next polls.
Malaysiakini understands that there are proponents of this idea in all Harapan component parties.
Political pundit Ahmad Atory Hussain agreed that it is possible for Bersatu to generate a “Malay tsunami” in favour of Harapan.
“If (Bersatu chairperson) Dr Mahathir Mohamad is to lead Harapan, the Malays would feel more confident,” he told Malaysiakini.
He said the Umno splinter party is growing at a fast pace and is already making headways into Umno strongholds in the Felda parliamentary constituencies.
Earlier today, it was reported that Bersatu proposed that Mahathir and party president Muhyiddin Yassin be made Harapan’s chairperson and president respectively, with Anwar Ibrahim being allotted the role of adviser.
Whereas Anwar’s wife and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail would serve as deputy chairperson and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali would be Harapan’s deputy president as well.
On the other hand, DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu would be named as vice-presidents.
However, not all within Harapan are convinced that the plan would yield the anticipated results.
“There is an argument to be made that Bersatu can get traction from rural and even urban Malays.
“Those who want to win are in favour of this option. But those who place importance on values are against it,” said a DAP leader.
Harapan’s core values at stake
One PKR leader explained that putting Bersatu at the helm would unravel Harapan’s core values, which emphasises on consensus.
“Harapan is about equality – all parties are the same, have an equal voice, a principle of consensus and so on.
“So far nothing is evident that there is a huge Malay swing that is called Malay tsunami due to Bersatu,” he said.
Those who opposed the idea believe that Malaysians are more concerned about bread and butter issues compared to racial sentiments.
“I think we should spend more time explaining how we can make common people’s lives better through our policy offerings, and less time thinking about a strategy of co-habitation, hoping for a tsunami to come,” said another insider.
Regardless of sentiment, betting on Bersatu to win over the Malays, especially those in Umno’s rural vote banks, could be a worthwhile gamble.
The opposition has already made significant gains among urban Malaysians, as well as the non-Malays, meaning that their potential to convert more supporters among this voter demographic is plateauing.
This can be seen in the results of the past two general elections.
With their efforts focused on urban and semi-rural voters, the opposition made significant gains in 2008, pushing up its popular vote share by almost 14 percent, compared with 2004.
The opposition largely maintained this strategy in 2013, but preaching to the converted meant the payoff was far smaller. Its popular vote share rose only three percent, compared with 2008.
If the opposition wants to win over more supporters, then it must focus on new grounds, such as the Malay-dominated Felda settlements