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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s new party could struggle to stand out in a crowded field, with some political analysts even suggesting it is no more than a vehicle for the former prime minister’s ego and personal ambitions.
They pointed out that the Malay political space was already oversaturated with at least five established parties on both sides of the political spectrum actively vying for the community’s support, leaving the ex-PM’s still-nameless outfit facing an uphill climb.
On Friday, the former Bersatu chairman announced yet another party after his lawsuit to challenge his termination from the party he founded only in 2016 was dismissed.
Dr Mahathir has already acknowledged his party was not likely to be able to form a government, but could be kingmaker in deciding which coalition would win the next elections.
According to political analyst Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Dr Mahathir’s still-nameless party will however find it hard to convince the Malay electorate that is already being courted by Umno, PAS, and Bersatu on one side as well as PKR and Amanah on the other.
“I think this new party will not make much headway as many Malays are conscious of the fact that the Malay vote has been split too much to their political disadvantage as a community.
“Dr Mahathir seems bent on repeating his 1988 feat with Umno Baru which outflanked Tengku Razaleigh and his allies, but times have changed, I think.
"Yet another new party is a reflection of Mahathir's ego, of not wanting to play anything less than a leading role in any outfit, which is what he would have to do if he joined any of the existing Malay-based parties,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Dr Mahathir formed Bersatu in 2016 after he left Umno following a failed campaign to have the Malay nationalist party remove Datuk Seri Najib Razak as the prime minister.
With Bersatu, he made history by leading the Pakatan Harapan coalition to victory at the polls in 2018, and became the world’s oldest PM.
He lost control of Bersatu after the February political crisis triggered by defections and his subsequent resignation as the prime minister.
Universiti Malaya associate professor emeritus Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Dr Mahathir’s latest venture will have difficulty convincing Malay voters how it was fundamentally different from any of the major political parties that already cater to them, especially without any grassroots network.
He said a new party without such a network has as much chance of performing as Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s Parti Bumiputra Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), and would see it struggle for support the entire way to the general election.
“It is difficult to be a new power as the Malays are already comfortable with parties like PAS, Umno and even some with Amanah.
“There are also some Malays who are comfortable with joining parties like PKR and DAP as it is based on the reality of a multiracial Malaysia
“Dr Mahathir's new party is more of a party that reflects the personality of Dr Mahathir. It reflects his ambition to be the PM candidate even though PKR rejected him,’’ said Awang Azman, referring to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Political observer Hoo Ke Ping also predicted that Dr Mahathir’s latest vehicle was unlikely to influence Malay politics significantly, especially with its professed mission of “fighting corruption and kleptocracy”.
This would not resonate with rural Malay voters who were the spine of the community’s political support, he said.
Hoo also said Dr Mahathir’s influence on the Malay community has already waned significantly and that he would labour to win them over from Umno and PAS.
"Racial politics or race based parties still plays an important part in Malaysia. Let's not forget that nearly 75 per cent of Malay voters voted Umno and PAS in the last election. Bersatu pulled in another 10 per cent.
“Where could Dr Mahathir's new party fit in all this?” Hoo said.
Hoo said that while some urban Malays support Dr Mahathir, he will face significant challenges setting this new party apart from Bersatu that he established less than four years ago.
Upon announcing the new party on Friday, Dr Mahathir stressed that would-be members must uphold the principles of fighting corruption and kleptocracy.
Dr Mahathir claimed he had no choice but to launch a new party after the courts rejected his challenge against his expulsion from Bersatu, which he accused party president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of subverting from its original aims.
Despite the obvious headwind and negative prognosis from political observers, there have been some minor signs of support with at least one state lawmaker with Bersatu announcing his support for Dr Mahathir yesterday.
Whether support will grow in the days to come will be closely watched by Malaysians.