Old rift, divisions pop out again as PH jump-starts quest for power

Pakatan Harapan’s attempt to return to power is hit by disunity shown by factions loyal to Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Harapan (PH) remains divided some two months after its fall from power, even as the coalition attempts to lure PPBM back into its fold in the hope of overthrowing the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

This division is still characterised by two main personalities whose age-old rivalry “refuses to lose steam”, to quote an insider with access to top leaders.

“Again, at the heart of it is who will be in charge, Anwar or Mahathir,” the source told FMT.

It is learnt that the coalition, now comprising its founding members PKR, DAP and Amanah, recently nominated Anwar Ibrahim as its parliamentary opposition leader.

It is understood that coalition leaders named the PKR chief in a letter to the Dewan Rakyat speaker.

But the move did not sit well with the faction aligned with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which insists that the former prime minister return to the top post.

This development comes as politics prepares to dominate Malaysian public life again following the easing of the movement control order (MCO) to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MCO came into force on March 18, less than a month after the PH government collapsed from defections and infighting.

But FMT has learnt that PH leaders have stepped up their quest to return to power, with some seen going in and out of Mahathir’s base at his Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya this week.

Youth chief Syed Saddiq snubbed

Syed Saddiq

Among those actively working towards this is PPBM Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, among the small number of party leaders who remained with Mahathir after he backed out from joining forces with Umno to form the PN government.

A source told FMT that one result of the meetings in Putrajaya was a statement issued yesterday using the PPBM Youth letterhead, which urged party president Muhyiddin Yassin to return to PH.

The statement was followed almost immediately by denials from most state youth chiefs and exco members.

FMT was told that at least 10 of the 14 state youth chiefs denied supporting the call by pro-PH Youth leader Syed Saddiq for PPBM to return to the “family”.

“Just three hours after the statement was issued to the media on the motion to bring PPBM back to PH, there were almost no supporters.

“By nightfall, out of the 34 committee members, at least 14 of them, including 10 state chiefs, had rejected the so-called motion,” the source said.

The Perdana Leadership Foundation, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s base in Putrajaya, has seen movements of PH leaders as they negotiate ways of coming back to power.

It is learnt that more exco members will distance themselves from the PPBM Youth statement.

Muhyiddin’s decision to take PPBM out of PH at the height of a political crisis in February accelerated the collapse of the 22-month-old PH government.

While the bulk of the PPBM leadership remained with Muhyiddin, about half a dozen MPs chose to stay with Mahathir.

Mukhriz’s plan

Mukhriz Mahathir

The idea for PPBM to “come back to PH” was first mooted in public by its deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir, who is part of the faction aligned with his father.

“Part of the plan was to encourage ruling MPs who are not really Muhyiddin’s fans to switch loyalties and build up momentum against Muhyiddin,” said a former Umno member with access to key PPBM figures.

He said “two or three” Umno leaders are unhappy that they were sidelined by Muhyiddin’s administration.

The main complaint is that the Malay party, by being part of PN, “has been reduced to playing second fiddle” to PPBM despite forming the bulk of MPs.

“They are saying that their status in PN is not in keeping with the Muafakat Nasional,” he added, referring to a charter signed between Umno and PAS during their short stint as opposition parties.

The charter was signed last year to bring about a strong Malay political force.

An aide to a senior PAS leader however told FMT on condition of anonymity that the Islamist party was sticking to PN, adding that “the charter was for a different purpose”.

“PAS is in its best position. It got what it wanted, a federal government it is part of. But more importantly, it was the ousting of its two key enemies from Putrajaya,” he said.

Asked to identify the two enemies, he replied: “DAP and Anwar.”

The stand was echoed by none other than Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

“There is no question of Umno wanting to quit PN as its members and the general public are grateful that the government was formed to save the country from a worsening political crisis while freeing it from the chauvinist and racist DAP, as well as the power-hungry PKR that has always been focused on elevating its president as the prime minister,” he said in a statement today.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.