KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Several political observers have downplayed the effect of Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin’s defection to Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) on Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, suggesting that the Perikatan Nasional component is already in dire straits prior to her move.

Speaking to the Malay Mail, the analysts said the Umno splinter party had already produced dismal results in the recent state elections, in addition to possibly being fractured due to factions that are at loggerheads within the party.

“I don’t think Zuraida is the cause for Bersatu to break up. The party is on the brink, and it is not intact. The party consists of former members of Umno [such as] Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin and his team, and [those from PKR like] Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and team, which creates an identity gap, competing interests, and crisis.

“Many political analysts expected that Bersatu may not last long because it is just a splinter party and does not have roots with the people,” Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s political analyst, Kartini Aboo Talib said.

“Also, in two state elections, in Melaka and Johor, Bersatu’s performance was poor, as it won only two seats in both states. With or without Zuraida, Bersatu is already struggling,” the professor added.

Kartini said Zuraida may have defected, but she had done so as she has found her grounding with over 50,000 members in the NGO Penggerak Komuniti Negara backing her.

“She knows what the future holds for her and how to remain alive in this game of politics,” Kartini said.

Senior researcher at the O2 Malaysia think-tank, Anis Anwar Suhaimi, also shared Kartini’s sentiments, adding that Zuraida’s motivation to leave Bersatu can be attributed to two factors: Bersatu’s chances in the 15th general election and the planned tabling of the anti-party hopping Bill.

Anis said that while Zuraida’s departure may affect Bersatu to a certain degree, the party remains at the mercy of its political elites to stay relevant and has been under-performing even with Zuraida.

“She needs to choose a strategic and fresh platform as well as she needs to do so before her move is chained by the introduction anti-party hopping Bill. Bersatu’s performance during state elections in Melaka and Johor was alarming.

“Although they showed increased support, it was hard to win enough seats if Perikatan Nasional contested alone, especially in multi-cornered fights. So, Zuraida is believed to move on to better alternatives,” Anis said.

Zuraida’s move to join PBM may benefit Barisan Nasional (BN) should the fledgling party join the coalition, he said.

“If the negotiations between them go smoothly, with the momentum in favour of BN, Zuraida’s involvement in PBM with BN will enable her political career to continue along with her base of supporters,” Anis said.

According to Senior Fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan, Zuraida was still regarded as an “outsider” in Bersatu despite her efforts, and so is Azmin.

“So it does not bode well for Bersatu, especially their president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is trying to garner support, trying to create his own big tent or big umbrella concept of trying to gather support from the Opposition.

“Even though Bersatu is intact, its political influence is going down very fast and it is going to be very difficult for Bersatu and Muhyiddin to convince other Opposition parties to work together with Bersatu, or have them accept Bersatu as their ally,” the professor said.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s analyst Sivamurugan Pandian echoed Azmi and Anis’ points, saying Zuraida could not work herself up into Bersatu’s hierarchy, and was inevitably forced to find a political vehicle or platform of her own.

“The dilemma is PBM wants to become BN friendly. Will this create a clash among the leaders in Bersatu and BN? Bersatu cleaned itself of those who are not loyal to the party, and where will Azmin stand after this?” he asked.

Zuraida announced her plan to meet with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and voiced her intent to resign from the Cabinet on May 26, the same day she declared her entry into Parti Bangsa Malaysia, automatically giving up her membership in Bersatu.

Ismail Sabri on May 28 said that Zuraida will remain as minister for the time being and that he would make a final decision after meeting with her.

PBM was formerly known as Sarawak Workers’ Party and the Registrar of Societies (RoS) approved its rebranding on October 27 last year.

On January 8, Larry Sng, who also defected from PKR, was elected as the president of the party in an extraordinary general assembly in Sibu, Sarawak, with other top leaders also announced that day.