KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The emergence of Parti Kuasa Rakyat (Kuasa) that promotes seemingly left-leaning policies but also touts a government-friendly stance looks set to split votes among urban Malay voters, political observers polled by Malay Mail have predicted.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said Kuasa is therefore likely to deprive critical support from the voting base of Pakatan Harapan (PH) components such as PKR and Parti Amanah Negara.
“I regard the sudden appearance of Kuasa as an attempt to snatch urban middle-class Malay votes away from PKR and Amanah and therefore from PH, leaving PH as ultimately a coalition dominated by non-Malays,’’ he told Malay Mail.
Concurring with Fauzi’s assertion is also a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun, who said Kuasa will present yet another alternative for those inclined to vote for social democratic policies.
Oh further explained that Kuasa aims to appear to be more left-leaning compared to PH, but due to its government-friendly image, a vote for the former may as well be a vote for the ruling government.
“Kuasa is a vote-splitting party or vote splitter. Its idea is to present a viable alternative to voters who are inclined to support the opposition so if they are to support this party then they are not going to vote for PH, therefore, PH will lose some seats to this party or one of the incumbents (ruling government parties).
“It also represents an image of being more left-leaning than the Opposition who are slightly social-democratic so people might believe it and vote for the party and therefore you would accomplish the role of vote splitting,’’ he said.
On October 10, Kuasa was officially launched, headed by Kamarazaman Yaakob, a former member of the Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia and also the elder brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Kamarazaman said the party will be open to all ethnic groups and East Malaysians, and it will push for free education, housing and health as well as jobs for the bottom 40 per cent (B40) and middle 40 per cent (M40) households.
Apart from that, Kuasa is also seeking the abolishment of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) and replacing it with scholarships for the B40 and M40 groups.
During its launch, Kamarazaman said the party aims to be friendly to the government to achieve its goals, but insisted that it has no links either to Ismail Sabri and the ruling Umno, or PKR defectors Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin.
Kamarazaman has even positioned Kuasa as a credible alternative to MCA and MIC and to fill a void in Barisan Nasional, saying it is now up to the former ruling coalition dominated by Umno whether it wishes to accept his party into its fold.
Malay Mail has requested an interview with Kuasa to clarify its position, but has yet to secure a slot.
Zooming in on Kamarazaman’s political credential, Fauzi suggested the former may be able to position Kuasa on the right path to be a viable political party with a focus on clean politics.
“Its founder Kamarazaman Yaacob is not only the PM's brother, but he also has a noteworthy history of political activism including a stint with Semangat 46,” he said, referring to short-lived Umno splinter party formed by Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
“So with his vast networks and leftist pedigree, it would be premature to rule him out just as yet.
“With socialism as a political project being more of a spent force globally, he would need to rebrand his socialist ideals though. With all sorts of revelations alluding to corruption among the country’s ruling elites (eg. Pandora Papers, 1MDB scandal), he stands a good chance provided he can skillfully capitalise on such disclosures.
“The emphasis should be on clean politics; a theme that would resonate among the Malay middle classes which provide the bulk of support for parties like PKR and Amanah,’’ he said.
Fauzi also stated that Kuasa would be able to provide a proper platform for former PKR lawmakers who defected to the government but may not be too comfortable with joining parties such as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia due to its race-based policies.
“Kamarazaman's reputation in the hall of fame of Malay grassroots activists of the 1970s — one that purportedly rivals Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s, will be crucial here. Kuasa will also become the cushion that can accommodate ex-PKR stalwarts who jumped over to Bersatu as part of the Sheraton move in February 2020.
“Many I suspect will not be able to find proper space in Bersatu, which is at heart still a right-wing Malay nationalist party with Umno-like characteristics. Politicians such as Kamarudin Jaffar and Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah don't have profiles that match Bersatu’s ideological make-up. Kuasa would fit them better,’’ he said.
Other names leading Kuasa so far include former PKR’s Padang Serai MP N. Gobalakrishnan, G25 member Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Hassan, and former Pahang Amanah chief Hamzah Jaafar.
Another political analyst, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Prof Azmi Hassan also agreed that other more established political actors should not downplay Kamarazaman’s ability to manoeuvre Kuasa appropriately.
However, Azmi added that Kuasa must be able to attract other experienced politicians to show that it is a viable contender within the political circuit.
“Whether it is significant or insignificant, it depends on how it can attract other politicians and most importantly how it can attract new members to join the party.
“Kuasa needs seasoned politicians or well-known politicians to instill confidence in the people that it is not just a fly-by-night political party but is here to stay and when it says it is government-friendly, it shows a lot about the direction of the party,’’ he said.
He however added that it is still unknown whether Kuasa will join forces with government parties in the next polls, but allying with Umno, PAS or Bersatu will lead to further squabbles in seat allocation
“This will create some turmoil within the older parties but again Kamarazaman being a savvy politician and being the brother of the PM really help Kuasa to alleviate in a faster manner compared to other parties such as Muda.
“I think if Kuasa is given the go-ahead by the Registrar of Societies, then it could become a significant player in an already crowded political scene,’’ he said.
So far, Bersatu splinter Parti Pejuang Tanah Air has been approved by the Registrar of Societies, but not the youth-based Malaysian United Democratic Alliance or Muda.