Slim by-election will show if Dr Mahathir’s new party is accepted

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the new party to continue his struggle, claiming that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which he co-founded to lead PH to victory in the 2018 general election, has deviated from its original struggle and objectives. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the new party to continue his struggle, claiming that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which he co-founded to lead PH to victory in the 2018 general election, has deviated from its original struggle and objectives. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

COMMENTARY, Aug 11 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s new party will make its debut in the Slim state seat by-election, which will be a measure of its public support and acceptability to the Pakatan Harapan Opposition coalition.

Dr Mahathir launched the new party to continue his struggle, claiming that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which he co-founded to lead PH to victory in the 2018 general election, has deviated from its original struggle and objectives.

Confident the still-unnamed party will attract the Malays whose support was split among other Malay-based parties already in existence, Dr Mahathir appeared to be targeting Bersatu under Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Dr Mahathir will not stop with making life hard for Muhyiddin and Bersatu heading into the general election. Bersatu will already have a challenging time negotiating seats with Umno and PAS.

Dr Mahathir would make news even if he did not launch a new party but his political moves, previously called masterful, now seem blunt.

He set himself at a disadvantage when he quit as the prime minister and chairman of Bersatu in February. He was blocked when he tried to make a U-turn.

When he had no option left, he launched a new party headed by his son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, and left the other pro tem positions vacant.

The party has said it will contest the Slim state seat by-election. Dr Mahathir’s allies in PH ― DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) ― have agreed to yield.

A stronghold of Barisan Nasional that has held it for four straight terms, Dr Mahathir’s party will need more than luck and charm to win in Slim.

For one thing, PKR under Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has lost trust in Dr Mahathir and it is very like PKR supporters will not support Dr Mahathir’s candidate.

However, Dr Mahathir’s candidate will not likely lose his deposit as DAP supporters will vote for this person to protest the corruption charges against DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and wife Betty Chew.

However, depending on the cooperation between Muafakat Nasional (MN) and Bersatu, Dr Mahathir’s party may be “killed” before it can be registered.

This would leave Dr Mahathir looking at another blank wall.

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