The new party formed by former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has caused further divisions within the Opposition coalition it is supposed to join forces with for the 14th General Election.
While PKR’s internal struggle with the notion of aligning with Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been well documented, the emergence of DAP Youth as a faction opposed to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is rather surprising. Before this, DAP had shown itself to be quite willing to play ball with Mahathir, with Lim Kit Siang extending the hand of cooperation during his own Save Malaysia tour, much to the consternation of hardcore Reformasi supporters.
Many have argued that Mahathir’s true plan is indeed to install Mukhriz Mahathir as a future prime minister, and that he has not truly renounced his Umno ways. A cursory look at Bersatu reveals that those fears may indeed have been rooted in solid ground. It will be difficult for voters to see the difference between this new party and Umno.
It seems that the only real difference between the two is that Umno backs Prime Minister Najib Razak and Bersatu is congenitally allergic to him.
That being said, many analysts and insiders have given the notion that the US civil suits related to the 1MDB scandal have injected a heavy dose of poison into Umno . If that is true, then Bersatu’s mission can be read as specifically formulated to take advantage of the fallout from the lawsuits.
Indeed, if Bersatu is designed to usurp Umno by way of encouraging an exodus of members, the timing could not have been better.
Nonetheless, Mahathir and Muhyiddin have the monumental task of convincing the now disillusioned opposition supporters, moderates and liberals to get behind the party. Voters will not necessarily be convinced to support this new party whether they lean towards Umno or not.
Mahathir and his surrogates must show that they are capable of winning over an increasingly frustrated and divided Malaysia.