Malaysia: PPBM must manage coalition partners in GE14: Wan Saiful

  • Under Tun Dr Mahathir’s chairmanship, PPBM has moved quickly to establish itself across the Malaysian peninsula. It now has divisions in 137 out of the 165 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.
  • For a party that is just one year old, being able to cover more than 80% of its targeted constituencies is no mean feat. This is recognised by its coalition partners in the opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan. When Pakatan announced the seat allocation for its component parties, PPBM was given the biggest share in Peninsular Malaysia with 52 seats.
  • The party is also attracting members, with the number of applications estimated at around 200,000. Of these, 55% are below 35 years old, and for the majority, PPBM is their first party. This is impressive because the general assumption in Malaysia is that the young either reject ethnic-based politics or party politics altogether.
  • Almost all of the younger PPBM members I interviewed told me they joined the party because of Dr Mahathir. They were born in the early 1980s and for the first 22 years of their lives, he was prime minister. They were too young to understand the criticisms thrown at him at that time. But they saw modern infrastructure being built daily in a country that was enjoying respectable economic growth.
  • There is a tendency among Malay voters to associate the rise of the DAP to the rising political clout of Malaysian Chinese, and by extension, the erosion of Malay political power. Thus, voting for any party that helps the DAP get into government is tantamount to jeopardising the Malays’ special position.
  • It will be tough for the PPBM to win over Malay voters when they contest with a Pakatan coalition that includes the DAP.
  • The wider environment is clearly challenging for PPBM. But PPBM is offering a completely new push into the Malay heartland. For this vital contribution, it wants to be rewarded with a fair share of seats in places where the Pakatan coalition has a higher chance of winning, namely those with mixed-ethnic demographics.
  • This is a big demand because among Pakatan parties, the expectation is for PPBM to contest in seats with a high Malay population since its raison d’etre is to replace Umno.
  • PPBM leaders, however, argue that Pakatan can win over mixed seats only if Malay voters in those areas are persuaded to its side, and that this will happen only if PPBM is present. Thus, if PPBM is the reason for Pakatan to win in mixed seats, its vital contribution must be reciprocated in the form of seats in mixed areas as well.
  • Seat allocation among Pakatan parties is therefore very important for PPBM’s longer-term survival.
  • So far, PPBM seems happy with the parliamentary seats that have been allocated to it. But the tussle for seat distribution at the state level is ongoing.

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