Pejuang aims to be kingmaker in GE15

The party is eyeing at least 30 parliamentary seats alongside its allies in Sabah in the next national polls

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by BERNAMA

PARTI Pejuang Tanah Air’s plan to be kingmaker in the 15th General Election (GE15) has drawn scepticism from political observers who see the new party as still having limited influence.

The Malay-based party, which has yet to be officially registered, needs to win at least 30 parliamentary seats to hold the balance of power, but analysts say its recent loss in the Slim by-election did not inspire confidence.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political scientist Dr Azmil Tayeb said it is unclear where support for the party will come from. He said Pejuang will have to compete with Umno and PAS for Malay votes, while non-Malay voters would opt for DAP and PKR instead.

“I’m incredulous with Dr Mahathir’s claim that Pejuang will be the kingmaker. It might get really lucky in GE15 and win a handful of seats due to fragmented Malay votes, but a kingmaker it is not. My take is Pejuang will want to partner Pakatan Harapan (PH) to increase its electoral chance and might even contest under the PH logo.

“However, I doubt PH wants it, especially when Dr Mahathir’s popularity is not what it used to be. His role in PH during GE14 was to attract Malay voters and it’s highly doubtful that he will be able to repeat that. If so, then there’s no real incentive for PH to accept Pejuang as a partner,” Azmil told The Malaysian Reserve.

Dr Mahathir said Pejuang is eyeing at least 30 parliamentary seats alongside its allies in Sabah in the next national polls, as it looks to be the kingmaker in what is expected to be a highly contested election.

“If we can get just 30 seats, we will be in a position to join either (coalitions). But if we want to join, we must insist on certain conditions. If they accept our conditions, then we will join,” Dr Mahathir told reporters at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya yesterday.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies deputy director Assoc Prof Dr Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid said while Pejuang’s ambition should not be belittled, the party has to work hard to convince voters that it can make a difference.

“Many parties like Semangat 46, PKR, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and now Pejuang, are Umno splinters. They are using the Umno template to form a so-called new political party, yet they are unable to move away from Umno’s shadow.

“We have seen how these splinter groups have not been strong enough and may fade away because their objectives, goals, approach and agenda are no different (than Umno’s),” she said.

Kartini said the voters did not choose Pejuang in the Slim by-election, despite Dr Mahathir’s stature as an iconic leader and noble statesman.

“So, Pejuang is a stand alone fighter and in Malaysian politics, no party can be a Rambo figure. It will not survive without strong partners. It could try to convince PH that it is still relevant, reflecting from the GE14 victory, but negotiation has to be a win-win between Dr Mahathir and PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and that could be challenging.

“For now, Pejuang is seen as an unnecessary diversion,” she said.

Pollster Prof Sivamurugan Pandian is more optimistic, saying anything is possible in Malaysia’s political landscape nowadays.

“It depends where Pejuang is going to stand (in GE15) and maybe Dr Mahathir is of the view that those constituencies may choose a new alternative. They can become friendly with PH and Parti Warisan Sabah too to have better logistics and machinery.”

Sivamurugan, however, said it will be an uphill battle for Pejuang to face grand coalition parties in its pursuit to become a third force.

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