by DASHVEENJIT KAUR/ pic by TMR FILE
TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) has unveiled his latest political party — Pejuang — in what observers described as his final political struggle in the country.
In a blog post yesterday, Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister (PM) announced the party’s name, a week after he unveiled his plans to form a new Malay-based party. Pejuang means fighter or warrior in Bahasa Malaysia.
Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said the former PM needs to work hard and quickly to gain a strong ground in an already crowded Malay political battlefield.
“He has to show more inclusiveness to all communities and especially the poor. Good luck to him,” Ramon told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
“He is facing a severe litmus test for his views, his support and the people’s trust in him, after all these years of tough leadership.
“This could well be his last battle,” he said, adding that Dr Mahathir’s drive remains phenomenal.
Pejuang is chaired by Dr Mahathir, while his son Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir is the president.
Dr Mahathir said the party was formed to eliminate corruption and kleptocracy.
“Our party was formed out of awareness. Corruption destroys the nation. Corruption destroyed the Malays.
“If you want to get a position and money. Choose another party. If you want to redeem dignity. If you want to keep our rights. Choose our party. Choose Pejuang,” he said on his blog post.
Ramon, however, believes Pejuang should be able to offer something new that other Malay parties have not paid attention to, such as promoting inclusiveness in the society.
“He needs to move really fast with a manifesto of inclusiveness. That way, people may give him a last chance.
“For a long time, he has been associated with the groups of rich, powerful and elites. He can’t remain that way, in fact, he needs to be sincerely more inclusive, particularly with the poor.
“It will be an uphill battle unless he can quickly show that he is more all-encompassing compared to other existing parties.”
Currently, the Malay votes are divided among Umno, PAS, PKR, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Amanah Negara.
Last night, Pejuang named lawyer and ex-Bersatu Teluk Intan division chief Amir Khusyairi Mohamad Tanusi as its candidate in Perak’s Slim by-election.
Mukhriz said last week that a candidate from the new party will contest as an independent in the upcoming by-election if it does not get registered in time.
Political pundits have said that the Slim by-election scheduled on Aug 29 will be a litmus test for Dr Mahathir’s clout in the Malay society.
To Ramon, the survival of Pejuang will be guaranteed, among others, if Dr Mahathir remains truthful to his older colleagues in Pakatan Harapan.
“He (Dr Mahathir) must include the DAP, as well as thoughts and ideas of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. That way he’d get hold of supporters too.
“Besides all that, there has to be a quick transition. Pejuang should fight a good battle, win and then Dr Mahathir should hand over to the younger ones,” Ramon added.
Dr Mahathir announced a new breakaway political party following the High Court’s decision to strike out a suit by him and others over the nullification of their Bersatu memberships last Friday.
Following his announcement, more leaders and members of Bersatu resigned from the party and pledged support to the 95-year-old leader.
Pejuang currently has the support of six MPs, including Dr Mahathir himself. Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has yet to announce whether he will be joining Pejuang.
“I will attend the announcement of candidacy for the Slim by-election later this evening. My attendance is to support the campaign and I will do my best to ensure our allies win,” Syed Saddiq told TMR in a text reply yesterday.
TMR reported University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute political analyst Prof James Chin’s assessment that it was too early to gauge the success of Dr Mahathir’s new party as Bersatu’s position in the federal government would mean it would have a lot more patronage.
“However, Dr Mahathir is, of course, a political icon in the Malay community, so he will have some support. The question is whether he can take over majority support of those who have been supporting Bersatu,” he told TMR recently.