PETALING JAYA: While Muhyiddin Yassin is not the undisputed leader of Bersatu, an analyst says it would be “un-Malay” to challenge him for the top post, days after the former prime minister did an about-turn on whether he would defend his presidency at the next party polls.
Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said Bersatu had no shortage of potential party presidents with extensive experience in government, citing the likes of former federal ministers Hamzah Zainudin, Saifuddin Abdullah and Mustapa Mohamed.
But while these figures were capable and seasoned politicians, Fauzi said it would be “un-Malay” for any of them to challenge Muhyiddin for the Bersatu presidency, more so since the Pagoh MP had stated his intention to defend the top post.
“It would be un-Malay to challenge Muhyiddin because Malay culture values respect for the elderly and our leaders.
“If you look at the leadership changeover in Malay political parties, the leader usually voluntarily steps down, or is pressured to do so, to make way for the lower echelon leaders.
“An exception was Anwar Ibrahim challenging Ghafar Baba for the Umno deputy presidency in 1993, which ended with Ghafar withdrawing although he was the incumbent,” Fauzi, of Universiti Sains Malaysia, told FMT.
He also said it would be unwise to rock the boat any further as five MPs from Bersatu had declared their support for the prime minister, adding that this would be demoralising for the party’s grassroots.
“It’s better to maintain the status quo than to unleash destabilising forces when the party is already beleaguered by court cases, defections, and scandals,” he said.
Muhyiddin previously acknowledged calls for a change in the party leadership, including by Bersatu Supreme Council member Eddin Syazlee Shith, who said a reshuffle was needed to fill a “void” in the party.
Hamzah, who is also the opposition leader, was among the names bandied about as a potential candidate to take over the Bersatu presidency.
During Bersatu’s recent annual general meeting, Muhyiddin announced that he would not defend his presidency during the party election next year. Several Bersatu leaders however refused to accept his decision.
Muhyiddin reversed his decision a day later and said he would defend his presidency after all, citing his wife’s advice.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Muhyiddin had never intended to relinquish the president’s post but had made the announcement to gauge the loyalty of senior party leaders.
He, too, did not foresee any senior Bersatu leader holding enough sway to wrest the party presidency from Muhyiddin.
But regardless of who led Bersatu, Oh said it was time that the chairmanship of Perikatan Nasional (PN) be given to PAS since the party had a greater share of parliamentary seats than Bersatu.
“We have a Malay voter base which is increasingly conservative and yearning for spiritual fulfilment, which they see PAS as being able to usher in, not Bersatu,” he added.
Bersatu scored its best-ever election result in the 15th general election last year, winning 31 seats in the Dewan Rakyat. But PAS overshadowed its PN partner by winning 42 seats, the most won by a single party in GE15.