Why all these new political parties now? Pundits suggest voters’ disillusionment with the old guard a major cause

Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman addresses supporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 14, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman addresses supporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 14, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 — The past month saw several new parties on the horizon, which political analysts have said is a reflection of growing public anger towards the government and its handling of the nation.

They also suggested that trailblazers such as the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda), which was registered in December, have shown that independent parties can do as much or even more than established ones.

“It has become apparent since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic that people have been kind of fed-up with the antics of politicians from mainstream Perikatan Nasional, Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan parties.

“Such disenchantment with mainstream politicians probably reached an apogee during the recent floods in Selangor and Pahang. People openly questioned whether politicians have their own or the rakyat's interests at heart,” Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid told Malay Mail.

He also added that most mainstream politicians are seen as lacking in demonstrating a sense of urgency and empathy when dealing with people even in desperate situations.

“They couldn't even bring themselves to offer apologies for the many losses of lives and livelihoods suffered by the bottom billion populace. So, yes, some politicians do realise this and are trying to capitalise on this prevailing disappointment with the major political parties.

“But at the end of the day, the survival of a new party will ultimately depend on how well it fares in electoral contests,” he said, adding that politicians in all three mainstream coalitions are seen as losing ground with the grassroots.

In December, Melalap assemblyman Datuk Peter Anthony left Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) as its vice-president. He will be forming a new Sabah-based party together with Limbahau assemblyman Juil Nuatim, who was also from Warisan.

Separately, some 53,000 members from civil society Penggerak Komuniti Negara announced their membership in Parti Bangsa Malaysia led by Nor Hizwan Ahmad, a former aide to Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Azmi Hassan said the public has lampooned the current crop of politicians, including those in the Cabinet, who visited flood-hit areas recently for photo opportunities instead of actually lending a helping hand to those in need.

“This toxic scenario has given impetus to the formation of new political parties. So despite them being the same people, the new parties are highlighting the fact that business is not as usual and we need a change.

“The formation of these new parties encompasses all types of political ideologies. The reality is Warisan won’t make much of an impact here as in Sabah itself they were not performing that well,” Azmi said.

“Our political scenario now is very toxic especially when considering the different races and religions in Malaysia. I see sense in Warisan and Muda coming in new and with a breath of fresh air to at least minimise this toxicity.

“But I am not sure how voters will react to them,” he added.

Muda, for example, has been trying to gain traction in the political scene to compete in the next general election but is unwilling to commit to any big coalition, presumably to avoid intimidation from seniors in established political parties.

This has led to allegations of new parties being opportunistic, attempting to split votes, or merely following in Muda’s footsteps.

When contacted, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun felt the new crop of parties is more likely due to a combination of all these factors.

Oh, like Azmi and Ahmad Fauzi, agreed that the time is right for a change.

“In general the fragmentation of Malaysia’s political landscape emboldens many ambitious politicians to stake their claims in their own rights, instead of subsuming themselves in established parties where it would take a long time for them to climb up the hierarchy to be party leaders.

“Nowadays as long as you win one or even better a handful of parliamentary seats, then you are likely to be invited to the table for possibly forming different combinations and permutations of ruling coalitions,” he said.

Oh said despite them being different parties, with the same heads, they could still be successful.

“They usually have their cliques of diehard supporters who would follow them anywhere they go. In addition, voters disappointed with the major parties from both sides might give them a try,” he added.

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