KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (Muda) will harm its chances in the Johor election if it insists on challenging the allied PKR in the Johor constituency of Larkin, analysts said.
A fledgling party making its electoral debut, they said Muda must still depend on the support of Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties and supporters in these early days to make up for its lack of experience and resources.
Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan also said Muda’s decision to be hostile towards a key Opposition ally could have long-term repercussions for any cooperation beyond the March 12 election.
“So, to launch an attack on PKR or the other way around, it doesn’t do any good for Muda especially because the effect on PKR itself will be very minimal.
“In this case, I think Muda needs all the help they can get and this includes PKR supporters,” Azmi told Malay Mail.
Yesterday, Muda announced it will field the party’s state information chief Rasid Abu Bakar in Larkin, putting it on a collision course with PKR.
Muda president Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman previously said the party will not contest in any Johor state seats that Opposition parties are defending, which technically excluded Larkin as its incumbent was from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).
Shortly after Muda’s announcement yesterday, however, deputy Johor PKR chief Jimmy Puah said the party would meet to discuss possible retaliation.
According to Universiti Malaya associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi, as the “new kid in the block”, Muda is naive to imagine it could take on PKR so soon in its life.
“This is expected to infuriate PKR followers not only in Larkin, but to all constituents in Johor in this [state election] and will have major implications in provoking all PKR members throughout the country,” he said.
The relationship between the two parties was only likely to get worse, he said.
Muda was founded in September 2020 and was only formally registered at the end of last year, but the adept use of social media by Syed Saddiq and other key party leaders has helped Muda appear disproportionately influential online.
However, Universiti Malaysia Sabah political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung questioned if the party’s followers and strong traction on social media would translate to actual votes on March 12.
Muda and PKR’s inability to reach a compromise also bode poorly for the Opposition not just heading into the 15th general election that must be held by next year but also after the Johor votes are in on March 12, Lee said.
“Both of them share the same aspiration and political ideology, and want to beat Barisan Nasional but cannot come or reach an understanding to work together.
“This shows that even if they won enough seats to form the government they wouldn’t be able to work together,” he said referring to disputes between PKR and Muda.
Even without clashing with PKR that will field Dr Zamil Najwah Arbain, Muda would already be in for a bruising fight in Larkin.
The incumbent is Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s Mohammad Izhar Ahmad but Perikatan Nasional has said he will make way for former reporter Zulkifli Bujang.
Barisan Nasional (BN) is set to field Mohd Hairi Mad Shah while Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) has announced Mohamad Riadz Mohamad Hashim as its candidate.
Kartini Aboo Talib @ Khalid, who is the deputy director of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, said Larkin would be a test for Muda’s appeal among Malay voters.
“Many assume that Muda and Amanah depend on the support (voters and financial support) from DAP. As Johor is becoming a testing ground for Muda under the umbrella of PH, having a rivalry with PKR is about securing a position and support representing the Malays.
“Like PKR, Muda opens its membership to all ethnic groups, but in reality, the Malays are dominant in both PKR and Muda,” she said when contacted by Malay Mail.
According to analysts, the Muda-PKR clash is the latest symptom of the growing disarray within the Opposition front.
Outside of Larkin, Pejuang is also set to clash with Muda, PKR, DAP, and Amanah in 41 seats of the state’s 56. This is before accounting for new players such as Parti Warisan and Parti Bangsa Malaysia.
“The entry of Warisan, Parti Bangsa Malaysia and Pejuang in the Johor state election will cause a split in Opposition votes. So I think the Muda versus PKR impact will be very minimal,” Azmi said.
Others such as Awang Azman said the “new” parties were likely to only be spoilers on March 12, with the main contest still to be between BN and PH.
The Election Commission has set March 12 as polling day with early voting on March 8.