KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18: Malaysia’s political sphere has become more crowded with the entry of Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) and the latest, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), not forgetting the new alliance between PAS and Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia (Ikatan).Will they be able to find their niche in the Malaysian political scene?
Bersatu, formed earlier this month, is spearheaded by former UMNO leaders while Amanah, formed in September last year, is a PAS splinter party led by its former leaders. Interestingly, Amanah has teamed up with the DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to form Pakatan Harapan while PAS has formed a pact with Ikatan called Gagasan Sejahtera.
Can they, eventually, become a formidable force on the opposition front, which is currently fragmented? However, not many believe they have what it takes to become a political force to be reckoned with.
MCA Central Committee member Datuk Ti Lian Ker, on his part, described the new parties as “the same mould in a new glass”.
“They cannot be taken seriously. What I see is that these parties will only seek opportunities to further fragment voter support, but not along the lines of the so-called Third Force,” he said.
He said in order to become the “Third Force”, the new parties need to be as “moderate as possible” but, he observed, this was not at all the case as they were pushing their political objectives along the religious and racial lines.
“We thought Amanah could go beyond PAS supporters with their moderate stance. However, it turned out that Amanah’s pact with DAP and PKR has not succeeded in persuading DAP to take a more moderate stand. Instead, it (DAP) has become more extreme (now),” he said.
Describing the current political scenario as a “big market of confusion”, Ti said the new parties and alliances were being perceived as “mere puppets”, with PAS using Ikatan to lure voters; Pribumi targeting supporters of the UMNO splinter group; and Amanah setting its sights on gaining the support of PAS supporters.
He said Parti Pribumi and Amanah came about due to the knee-jerk reactions of some politicians who were disillusioned with their former parties.
“These parties are not about national aspirations. What is needed is a viable and solid front… so far, Pakatan (Harapan) and Gagasan (Sejahtera) have not been seen to be able to do that,” he added.
Some political observers, however, say that all is not lost if the new parties or alliances can build a common understanding among them.
Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the new political groups could become a viable alternative if they offered something that the other parties like UMNO, DAP or PKR could not offer.
“If they have clear vision and the right acumen, they will appeal to the fence-sitters. But these parties must prove that they can remain united on the opposition front,” he added.
In a commentary published by Singapore’s The Straits Times on Monday, Dr Farish A. Noor, an associate professor at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, observed that it would be relatively difficult for any new party to break new ground and capture new bases of support in Malaysia without poaching supporters of other parties.
“Malaysia’s political arena remains an attractive space for those who wish to engage in politics. But the splintering of parties and the emergence of new parties will also contribute to the splitting of votes at any coming elections, making it more difficult to predict the outcome of political contests at both the state and federal levels,” he said in his commentary.