KUALA LUMPUR: While Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition may share similar aspirations, they have different ideologies, said Slim by-election candidate Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi.
Commenting on how PH leaders have appeared to back his campaign for the state seat despite both sides not being aligned officially, the Pejuang party man noted that they are both against corruption.
“We hold the same aspirations, not the same ideologies. Our aspirations against corruption, the fact that we do not want someone who mismanages power in any position, all these.
“In terms of what we fight for, it is the same and I tend to say to the voters, look at what we want to bring to you. Yes, we (Pejuang) are not in the coalition but we are on the same course to bring the best for the people,” he said when interviewed by CNA last weekend.
While Pejuang is a Malay-based party, PH comprises multiracial parties such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
The 38-year old is in a three-cornered fight against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Mohd Zaidi Aziz and independent candidate S Santhasekaran in the polls which will be held on Saturday (Aug 29). Early voting has kicked off on Tuesday.
He is contesting as an independent candidate, despite being a Pejuang party member. This is because the new party has yet to be registered officially.
READ: 'Choose Pejuang', says former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir as he announces name of new party
“They’re looking at me as a (Pejuang) party man even though I’m independent,” said Mr Amir Khusyairi, referring to the voters in the constituency.
“Once he (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) announced me as the candidate, I take that I am from his camp. We have the same aspirations such as fighting corruption so I hope people can see me like that, as a party man (of Pejuang),” he added.
On Aug 12, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said that his new party will be named Pejuang Tanah Air, which means warrior of the homeland. He said the party was formed out of a sense of awareness and the need to fight corruption that is destroying the nation.
Dr Mahathir has stated that his party is not aligned with any political bloc, including PH.
However, even before the official campaigning period for the Slim by-election began on Aug 15, PH component parties appeared to have thrown their weight behind Mr Amir Khusyairi.
A ceremony to announce Pejuang's candidate for the contest was attended by senior PH figures, including PKR's vice-president Chah Lih Kang and DAP's organising secretary Anthony Loke.
Last Sunday, DAP’s deputy secretary-general Nga Kor Ming, when campaigning for Mr Amir Khusyairi, hit out against the Perikatan Nasional government, which he said is suffering from an “identity crisis”.
"This government led by (Prime Minister) Muhyiddin Yassin is still contemplating on whether they would like to work with Barisan Nasional and PAS to form Muafakat Nasional or Perikatan Nasional. They cannot make up their mind.
“When we are in parliament and ask what government they represent, as in last time it was the Barisan Nasional government, now what? Perikatan? Muafakat Nasional? UMNO? They don’t know,” he said.
When asked by CNA, Mr Amir Khusyairi noted that the PH leaders who were on the ground had merely focused on national issues, rather than campaigning on his behalf.
“The PH members of parliament are all focusing on national issues. I am on the other hand focusing on my capabilities as a leader and my promises to the people of Slim,” he said.
He stressed that in contrast to the spectrum of issues raised by the PH leaders, he and his party are focused on local issues such as empowering the youths in the constituency.
Additionally, Mr Amir Khusyairi said although the PH leaders spoke alongside him at campaign events, his election machinery was manned solely by Pejuang members and supporters.
“We are doing it on our own. It is a challenge, so we do a targeted approach where we have meetings with influential people locally. We met them and they are opening their doors to us. Hopefully, by meeting those individuals we will be able to expand (our presence).
“We use traditional and online campaigns as well. Online works for urban voters who will return to vote and for old folks here, I do walkabouts,” he said.
Last Saturday, Mr Amir Khusyairi was seen on the campaign trail in Slim, supported by a small team made up mainly by his communications officers and party volunteers.
He attended the wedding of a couple in Slim with fellow Pejuang politician Mukhriz Mahathir.
PEJUANG AS KINGMAKERS?
Commenting on the broader political situation, Mr Amir Khusyairi, who has been with Dr Mahathir since 2018 as a member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), said the new party would be part of the “third force" in Malaysian politics.
He said: “From my point of view, our bloc is the third force. We are the kingmakers in the political arena and in the (opposition) coalition. With Parti Warisan Sabah and some politicians from Sarawak, we can be a third force in this arena.
"Whoever is in line with our aspirations, we are opening our doors to them and we do believe we can work together. In terms of forming a coalition, that is another issue altogether.”
Mr Amir Khusyairi added that even in Slim, people were hopeful that Dr Mahathir will be the remedy for the political situation in the country.
“Even though they are Felda settlers, they are still looking forward to what Tun (Dr Mahathir) would do in the future.
“They still have some belief. They still hope that in this by-election, a spark will start and hope democracy would be better and the people would be returned the mandate,” he said.
The Perak-born politician noted that his chances to win the by-election were "very slim", but he hoped to make a difference at a larger scale.
“Even though I know this is a fixed deposit of Barisan, I am creating an impact ... It can lead to bigger repercussions for the aspirations of the new party," he said.
“They (voters) want a new face, a new way of political thinking and leadership here. Even though they know I cannot win or change the government of the day, they want something to change.”
Slim constituency, which has a total of 23,094 registered voters, is seen as a stronghold of BN.
The state seat opened up after Mr Mohd Khusairi Abdul Talib of the United Malays National Organisation passed away on Jul 15 due to a heart attack.
Mr Khusairi had held the seat since 2004. He won the state election in 2018 with a majority of 2,183 votes against a Bersatu candidate.