Former Malaysian PM Mahathir to form new Malay-based party amid talk of possible snap polls

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir to form new Malay-based party amid talk of possible snap polls

The party will neither be part of the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition nor Pakatan Harapan. 

Former Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad Aug 7, 2020
Former Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Aug 7, 2020. On his right is his son, Mukhriz Mahathir. (Photo: AFP/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad announced on Friday (Aug 7) that he wants to form a new Malay-based political party, amid talk of a possible snap election.

Speaking at a press conference at Yayasan AlBukhary, Dr Mahathir said the new party will be registered but its name has not been decided. He added that the party will be neither part of the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition nor the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. 

Dr Mahathir made the announcement after the High Court on Friday morning dismissed a lawsuit he brought against Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) - which he had founded in 2016, for revoking his membership.

At the press conference, Dr Mahathir said his party is a Malay-based party and will be focused on fighting corruption and ensuring Malaysia "once again become an Asian tiger". 

"The party will be based on fighting for the Malays and the pribumis. This is because the current parties that are Malay- and pribumi-based have pawned the dignity of their race and religion and have shifted focus to a group that is power-hungry," said Dr Mahathir. 

He added that his party will initially function as an independent bloc, as he had some "problems" with one of the parties in the PH coalition. 

"We wanted to work with Pakatan Harapan but we had some problems with one of the individual parties," said Dr Mahathir, without elaborating. 

READ: Growing calls for Malaysia PM Muhyiddin to call snap polls

In May, the Bersatu memberships for five federal lawmakers, including Dr Mahathir, were ceased after they acted against the party's constitution, said Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. 

The other four were Mr Mukhriz Mahathir, Mr Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Dr Maszlee Malik and Mr Amiruddin Hamzah.

The five MPs were dismissed because they sat with the opposition bloc during the parliamentary sitting on May 18, and not with the PN coalition led by Mr Muhyiddin.

In June, two more Bersatu leaders aligned to Dr Mahathir, Mr Marzuki Yahya and Mr Akramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi, were removed from their posts

However, Dr Mahathir claimed on Friday that "most of Bersatu's grassroots members" are with him. 

He also confirmed that he will be chairman of the party while Mr Mukhriz, his son, will be the party's president. The new party will also include four other MPs who are currently independent after being removed from Bersatu. 

READ: Malaysia's Election Commission ready for snap polls; studying option of e-voting further


Political analyst Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told CNA that Dr Mahathir's party would make "minimal impact" on Malaysia's political scene, unless it aligns itself with either PH or PN. 

"He will likely be the only candidate from his party who will win during the polls, as the other members will be crushed by the two big coalitions in the battle for seats," said Dr Oh. 

Mahathir new party
Politicians who pledged their support for Mahathir Mohamad's new party include (from left) Amiruddin Hamzah, Mukhriz Mahathir, Marzuki Yahya, Maszlee Malik and Shahruddin Salleh. (Photo: Facebook/Dr Mahathir Mohamad) 

He predicted that Dr Mahathir would most likely align his party with PH as it was clear from the press conference that he does not support Mr Muhyiddin's government and will not work together with the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). 

"Now, he seems to be adamant not to back Anwar (Ibrahim) to be the future potential prime minister. But then reality will strike and if he doesn't align his party with Pakatan, his party will be crushed," said Dr Oh. 

The 95-year-old had in May 2018 led the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to a historic electoral victory. 

However, Mr Muhyiddin led Bersatu out of PH in February this year. Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister, triggering the collapse of the PH government.

Mr Muhyiddin then teamed up with Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) to form the new ruling government.

There have been calls from both sides of the political divide for Mr Muhyiddin to hold snap polls, as questions linger over whether he is able to govern effectively with a slim parliamentary majority.

Source: CNA/am