PETALING JAYA: PPBM leaders have sought to differentiate their party from Semangat 46, the Umno splinter that became defunct after the 1995 general election.
Rais Husin and Tariq Ismail, who are supreme council members of the party, said PPBM would survive because circumstances that led to its formation were different from those that gave birth to Semangat.
They were commenting on the findings of a study by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, which indicate that PPBM risks suffering Semangat’s fate unless it can secure a state after the coming general election.
Rais said it wasn’t appropriate to compare the two parties as if they were cut from the same cloth .
“Semangat 46 was a splinter group formed because of leadership tussles,” he said. “It was politically motivated. PPBM, on the other hand, was not formed by default but by design. The party leaders broke away from Umno to rescue the nation.
“They didn’t have to form PPBM. They did so because they had exhausted all means of changing Umno from inside. They engaged Umno leaders first, then launched the People’s Declaration movement, and even attempted to remove the party president through a no-confidence vote.
“The proceeded to form PPBM only after all these failed.”
Rais said this was the narrative the party had been presenting to voters.
He added that PPBM was confident it would survive, even if it fails to win one of the four states in its sights.
He referred to PKR, saying the party, which was formed in 1999 in time to face that year’s general election, had also failed to bag an anchor state.
He noted that PKR also failed in the following general election. But it survived, he said, because of its Reformasi message and the formidable leadership of Anwar Ibrahim.
PKR now has 28 parliament seats and leads the Selangor government.
Rais said PPBM had many strong leaders with years of experience in government administration. “And Pakatan Harapan has given us the leadership role in four states. We believe we have made serious inroads in at least Kedah and Johor.”
Semangat 46 was formed in 1988 by Kelantan prince and Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. The party was made up mostly of Umno members who were opposed to its then president, Mahathir Mohamad, who now leads Pakatan.
It was dissolved after failing to make a significant impact in the 1990 and 1995 elections. Most of its members, including its founders, returned to Umno.
Tariq said Semangat was born at the wrong time, during the age of leaders like Mahathir and Anwar, whom he described as forces to be reckoned with.
Moreover, he added, the Malays at the time were unprepared to consider parties other than Umno, except for voters in Kelantan, who chose PAS.
“The opposition this time around has strong issues to raise,” he said.
“Also, times have changed. According to various studies, Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is no longer a priority to the voters. They are evolving.
“That’s why PPBM talks about restoring Malay dignity. We Malays have to fix ourselves and our culture. Umno, meanwhile, is still relying on the Ketuanan Melayu narrative.”
Tariq acknowledged the possibility that some parties members would be demoralised by failure at the polls.
“That’s why we have to show the people that we are doing this because we want them and our country to be better,” he said.
“We don’t have the resources that Barisan Nasional has. We are sacrificing our own. So this is not about money for us.
“And we have a clear agenda, which is to replace Umno. I can’t predict the future, but as far as party leaders are concerned, we’ll never go back to Umno.”