Can Bersatu survive without Dr Mahathir?

Khoo-Kay-Peng--mahathir

PETALING JAYA: What would be the fate of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) without its founding chairman, Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

That is a scenario that the newly-formed party should address more clearly, independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said today.

“A political party needs to rely on much more than just star-studded personalities.

“For Bersatu to have a longer expiry date, it needs to ensure the party becomes more than just a splinter of Umno.”

He agreed with the suggestion that the personality cult of Mahathir in Bersatu was shaping up to be like PKR, which was, and to a certain extent still is, under the shadow of Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir formed Bersatu with the sole aim of taking on Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Barisan Nasional government he once led, in the next general election.

This is reminiscent of what the former prime minister himself faced, when his former protégé, Anwar, rose against him during the Reformasi movement in 1998, which eventually resulted in the birth of PKR.

Hence, questions are naturally being asked as to what the fate of Bersatu will be without the 91-year-old Mahathir, and if it is doomed to become average in his absence, as PKR is without Anwar now.

“Bersatu needs to extract good leaders from all age groups … leaders who can really take activism the right way, who can change and bring betterment to the Malay community. These must be leaders who really understand the troubles faced by those on the ground.

“The reality of the country’s political landscape is that the Malay community needs someone like Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has charisma, and is not interested in all the perks (that come with his position), but is more focused on solving problems,” Khoo said.

Unfortunately, Bersatu’s current lineup does not represent this, Khoo said to FMT.

“The party’s seven founding members appear to be 30,000 feet above those on the ground and are not representative of voters from the lower- and middle-income groups,” Khoo added.

Besides Mahathir, the others are former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, former Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir, former Umno member Anina Saadudin, the chairperson of a group of rebel Umno branch chiefs (Gabungan Ketua Cawangan Malaysia, or GKCM) Kamarulzaman Habibur Rahman, former Bendang Baru Umno Youth Chief Akhramsyah Sanusi and youth activist Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman.

Political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi, on the other hand, believes that Mahathir is just a catalyst for the formation of the new party, but there are others in the founding committee who have enough calibre to guarantee its success.

However, Bersatu needs to make sure the party can remain relevant even without Mahathir by following in the footsteps of PKR which had used the spirit of “Anwarisme” to form the basis of its struggles for justice, he told FMT.

“Leaders come and go, but the strength of an institution lies in the grassroots, and the issues that drove them towards forming the party.

“Just look at Umno … even though some of its leaders and founders had left the party, it still continues to exist.

“As long as Bersatu’s concept, struggles and strategies are on the right track, it can remain relevant, with or without Mahathir.”

Bersatu was formed by Mahathir as a platform for Umno members and supporters who are unhappy with the way the party is managed under the leadership of its president, Najib Razak, but who are not ready to fully switch to other Opposition parties.

The Bumiputera-only party will also work alongside other Opposition parties to accomplish the common goal of toppling the BN government.