Mahathir will be the de facto opposition leader, says political analyst.
PETALING JAYA: Now that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) has joined the opposition coalition, a political analyst has questioned whether it is wise for Barisan Nasional to continue alleging that DAP controls the opposition.
James Chin, who heads the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, said such rhetoric would be hard to maintain without reducing BN’s credibility because PPBM’s chairman, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, would now be the de facto opposition leader.
At last year’s Umno general assembly, Prime Minister Najib Razak said in his keynote address that DAP would destroy Bumiputera rights and institutions should Pakatan Harapan come to power.
Chin told FMT it was unlikely for the thinking public to accept the notion that a coalition led by Mahathir would destroy Bumiputera rights. He pointed out that the former PM, who pushed the Bumiputra agenda while he was in power, had built for himself a reputation as a Malay nationalist.
“Generally speaking,” he said, “the opposition coalition will mirror the BN. If you look at the previous opposition coalition, PAS would stand in the rural Malay-Muslim seats, DAP would stand in the urban seats and PKR would stand in semi-urban seats as well as the seats in Sabah and Sarawak.
“There are some 110 to 120 Malay-majority seats in Peninsular Malaysia and the rural Malay vote has always been the opposition’s weaker point.
“PAS has only been partially successful. Overall, it can’t deliver the rural Malay seats.”
He said PPBM would fill the void left by PAS, but he voiced doubt that it would be more successful than the Islamist party, noting the relative weakness of its grassroots machinery.
Another analyst has warned that the formal entry of PPBM into Pakatan Harapan would push Umno and PAS into a right-wing corner.
“Now the challenge for Pakatan Harapan will be to sell the concept of a multiracial coalition that is also able to protect Malay rights,” said Centre for Strategic Engagement CEO Fui K Soong.
“If Pakatan can convince Malay voters that it can protect Malay rights and guarantee good governance, it will give Umno a run for its money.”
She told FMT she believed BN’s biggest concern was that the opposition could present a multiracial front with PPBM’s entry into the Pakatan fold.
“I think it will dent the BN,” she said.