KUALA LUMPUR – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call for members of all Malay parties including Umno to join his Bersatu is a possible signal for them to abandon the former before he renews hostilities against his previous party, according to observers.
Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times (ST) reported these as saying Dr Mahathir’s Bersatu is seeking to take over the crucial mantle of representing Malaysia’s majority ethnic community, which Umno has claimed in all its years.
They further suggested that the move may be to shore up his hold on the prime minister’s post against possible challenges and to consolidate the Malay community’s electoral power that is increasingly divided by the growing crowd of Malay-based political parties.
Former Umno lawmaker turned journeyman politician Datuk Ibrahim Ali launched his own Parti Putra Perkasa Negara (Putra) in May, formalising his Malay rights group Perkasa’s entry into politics.
“Dr M is testing the waters, to confirm current alignments and dynamics at play. It is murky at the moment so keep your friends close, your enemies closer,” risk consultancy KRA Group’s strategy director Amir Fareed Rahim told the ST.
Other political insiders believe Ibrahim is dangling his new party to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as a platform to boost the latter’s credential as the promised successor to Dr Mahathir.
The ruling Pakatan Harapan previously told the public that Dr Mahathir would hand over his position to Anwar within two years of the 14th general election but the lack of a formal timeline continues to fuel speculation of conspiracies and intrigue.
Last Friday, Dr Mahathir invited all Malay-based parties to join Bersatu, saying it would unite the Malays — the country’s largest racial demographic at nearly 70 per cent.
The Bersatu chairman said more and more Malay parties were being formed, which reduces the chance for any one party to win by a significant margin in elections.
A party insider told the daily that Malay unity issue was just a diversion ahead of a PH presidential council meeting and meant to relegate discussions about the Dr Mahathir-Anwar succession plan, among others.
“It dominates the agenda for the top leadership of the ruling coalition, rather than the other big current issues – the transition to Anwar, and the sex clips implicating Azmin.”
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, a former Anwar protege now seen as aligned to Dr Mahathir, remains adamant that the clips released last month are fake and part of a smear campaign against him.
The scandal also prompted speculation that it was meant to curtail Azmin’s rise that could possibly jeopardise the transition plan.
Both Dr Mahathir and Anwar have repeatedly affirmed that they will honour the transition plan but in terms that do not provide clarity on how and when this will occur.
Anwar’s PKR is currently the largest party in the PH coalition in terms of federal lawmakers but Bersatu could usurp the former if it can successfully convince more Malay MPs to join.