PETALING JAYA: Two analysts are at odds in suggesting the attitude PPBM should take towards its founder, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, now that there has been a falling out between him and party president Muhyiddin Yassin.
Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the party should keep its distance from Mahathir, but Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said it could not afford to alienate him.
Azmi told FMT he believed PPBM could increase its appeal if it were to keep Mahathir at arm’s length.
He said there were quarters blaming Mahathir for the political crisis that led to the ouster of Pakatan Harapan and Muhyiddin’s appointment as prime minister.
These people believed Mahathir was unable to control the squabbling in PH that led to his resignation.
“The perception is that Mahathir has lost his political acumen,” he said.
Azmi described PPBM as being in a “delicate situation” since it is in transition from Mahathir’s to Muhyiddin’s leadership and influence.
“So it will be good for PPBM to distance itself from Mahathir but not to cut ties with him,” he said.
He noted that Mahathir formed the party as an alternative to Umno.
“But the result of the 14th general election shows that PPBM has a long way to go before replacing Umno. In this regard, too, I think it’s good for PPBM to distance itself from Tun.”
Azmi said the most important thing for Muhyiddin to do now was to close ranks in PPBM to prevent such splits as happened in PAS, which led to the forming of Amanah, and in PKR, which led to a rebellion by Azmin Ali and some of his supporters.
“In Perikatan Nasional, Muhyiddin needs a very strong PPBM to repel influences from PAS and Umno,” he added.
But Oh said he believed Mahathir still had large support from both Malays and non-Malays and PPBM could not ignore this if it was hoping to do well in the next general election.
“That’s why in his maiden speech, Muhyiddin was very deferential and even apologetic to Mahathir,” he said.
He also said Muhyiddin could use Mahathir as a counterweight against the demands Umno was expected to make.
Another analyst, Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya, said there was a possibility of PPBM merging with Umno, the party it splintered from, to strengthen Malay political power.
He noted that an earlier Umno splinter, Semangat 46, was eventually disbanded, with its members returning to Umno.
Azman also said PPBM needed to understand that civil society was keen to see how strongly Mahathir would hold on to the principle that the mandate given to PH in the last general election must be defended.
He said he believed Mahathir was aware of this expectation and would want to remain being seen as a statesman instead of someone who caused PH’s fall from power.