As Najib and the UMNO seek to root out their critics they are leaving new enemies in their wake. Of these emerging challengers Muhyiddin and the PPBM seem to be the most formidable, as the former Deputy Prime Minister is forming a unified coalition against Najib in the upcoming elections.
By Rasa Sarwari
In light of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party has fractured as its members are either purged or jumping ship. In the midst of this movement Muhyiddin Yassin was one of the most outspoken critics of Prime Minister Najib, insisting he stepped down However, ruling members of the UMNO looked unfavourably upon Muhyiddin’s opinions and instead sacked the former minister, who had loyally served the UMNO for over four decades.
As the UMNO continues on its witch hunt of those who oppose Prime Minister Najib, a fierce opposition party has started to form, consisting of many former-UMNO members, who are displeased with Malaysia’s current ruling party. The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) opposition party, created last month, has ousting Prime Minister Najib from power as its main goal. Subsequently, the group is trying to form a coalition with other opposition parties to create a united front against Prime Minister Najib. The Chairman of the PPBM party is former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and its President is former Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin.
Will Muhyiddin become the opposition’s new de facto leader?
Though Muhyiddin is only the interim President of the PPBM party, he has widespread support from his party members and seen to be the most likely candidate to run against Prime Minister Najib. Even the PPBM party’s Chairman Mahathir Mohamad has stated that “if the opposition wins, the most likely prime minister will be Muhyiddin.” However, although Muhyiddin is popular with his allies, he also needs the support of other coalition parties to be elected the de facto leader of the opposition against Prime Minster Najib. These other parties are currently not rushing into making any definite decisions yet. They know a rash move may fracture the newly formed coalition.
Moreover, if the opposition did take power, Chairman Mahathir Mohamad has said “the future prime minister will not have a free hand because in the new [PPBM] party, we have not only the president but also a chairman.” Accordingly, the Chairman will ensure the legitimacy of the Prime Minister, and make sure that they don’t abuse their powers. This relationship would need careful management by any potential Prime Minister.
Is Najib’s party fracturing?
Malaysia will hold general elections in 2018. However, many critics of the UMNO and Prime Minister Najib, have called for an earlier ballot in order to remove corrupt elements from Malaysia’s government. Prime Minister Najib has dismissed any notion that such elections would take place and has instead supported the original election date. That is obviously no surprise from the under-pressure PM.
When asked about the state of affairs within his former party Muhyiddin said “the party faces declining support and many are not even sure whether UMNO can survive the next elections.” In fact, since the 1MDB crisis broke more and more UMNO members have been leaving the party.
Meanwhile, the opposition is gradually forming an increasingly united front as more members of the UMNO ranks consider joining the PPBM, though Muhyiddin has refused to name any particular rebels against his former party. Instead, he has publicly stated that many UMNO leaders have reached out to his party, and are keen to join his coalition as they seek to distance themselves from “Najib’s tainted image.”
In regards to Muhyiddin’s comments about the UMNO’s fractured leadership, the party’s officials have dismissed the former duty Prime Minister’s remarks as a “ploy to revive his career.” UMNO officials have also stated that “Muhyiddin has been claiming for over a year that UMNO’s leaders, and indeed the Malaysian public, are about to desert the party.”
To affirm its party’s position in the upcoming 2018 General elections the UMNO has released a statement, saying that an opposition victory in the 2018 elections is “wishful thinking, with Barisan Nasional winning all three recent elections with landslides … the party [is] more united than ever”.
Is the enemy of my enemy, my friend?
While UMNO claim their own unity Muhyiddin has been reviving a coalition of opposition groups not seen since the collapse of the prominent Pakatan Rakyat coalition last year. Moreover, the PPBM’s Chairman Mahathir Mohamad has also been forging new alliances, and last month Mahathir meet with the opposition’s jailed former leader Anwar Ibrahim. The latter meeting has since helped the PPBM form a coalition with the Anwar-led opposition alliance.
Thus, Muhyiddin with the help of Mahathir Mohamad, has created a unified party of former UMNO exiles, who seek to oust the corrupt and despotic Najib regime. Though Muhyiddin is not yet the de facto leader of the opposition, he is the most likely candidate for the role. But can he translate that to the leadership of the country? Not on his own, but his support grows stronger every day.