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Dr M’s new party to complicate seat allocations before next general election

KUALA LUMPUR — With a new political party to be set up by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the opposition will now have to deal with the intricate task of divvying up seat allocations ahead of the next general election to ensure straight fights with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, said analysts.

KUALA LUMPUR — With a new political party to be set up by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the opposition will now have to deal with the intricate task of divvying up seat allocations ahead of the next general election to ensure straight fights with the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, said analysts.

The inclusion of Dr Mahathir’s new party will further complicate seat negotiations, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Malaysian and International Studies Associate Professor Dr Faisal Hazis, who pointed out that the opposition parties have not been able to set aside their differences to ensure straight fights against BN.

“There are more players now and more political parties on the board. If they say they want to form a loose coalition or even one single coalition and ultimately if they seriously want to challenge Barisan Nasional, they will need to ensure straight fights,” he said.

“When you want to ensure straight fights, you need to work out the seat allocation and even in the last several elections, like the Sarawak elections, even for parties like DAP (Democratic Action Party) and PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat), they still contested in traditional seats but they also wanted to expand their influence and try other seats,” he told Malay Mail Online, drawing an example from the Sarawak polls in May, which saw the DAP — which in the past only focused on urban seats — also contesting in rural seats in a bid to gain more ground. “Definitely you’ll start to see some encroach on other seats traditionally contested by other parties.”

Last week, Dr Mahathir — who has accused Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak of corruption linked to state investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad and has allied with the opposition Pakatan Harapan pact to oust Mr Najib — confirmed that he will be a founding member of a new political party that will ally with the opposition parties to ensure straight fights against BN in the next general election, which has to be called by 2018.

This comes after the opposition suffered dismal losses in the Sarawak state election as well as at the two by-elections in Selangor and Perak last month after three-cornered fights split opposition votes, giving BN landslide wins in all three instances.

Last week, opposition Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man mooted a “ceasefire” between his party and Pakatan Harapan — which comprises PKR, the DAP and PAS splinter group Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) — after the by-elections saw BN winning with overwhelming majorities due to PAS and Amanah splitting the votes.

Opposition leaders have acknowledged that they face a tough road ahead with Dr Mahathir’s new party and a difficult reconciliation with PAS, but insist that they will get the job done to ensure BN does not remain in Putrajaya.

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies said it was “very, very important” for the opposition to engage only in straight fights with BN if it wanted a good shot at unseating the ruling coalition. “Every vote counts. Because the next general election is do or die between those diehard mostly rural incumbent supporters versus urban more enlightened voters,” he said in a text message to Malay Mail Online.

However Dr Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, downplayed seat allocations as being the biggest challenge facing the new opposition.

“Yes it will be (complicated), but that should not be a major hurdle to a new opposition party working within an opposition coalition,” he told Malay Mail Online in an email.

“Malaysian politics is complicated, so a complicated political structure is something the country will have to get used to. The tension is really between the homogenising of political discourse versus the heterogenising of it.”

However, Pakatan Harapan chief secretariat Saifuddin Abdullah told Malay Mail Online that cooperation with the different opposition parties can be at many levels.

“What is important is we go one-on-one. Let’s say Muhyiddin opens a new party tomorrow, of course we will not say we want to contest Pagoh. But it is not going to be easy,” he said, referring to Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, the Pagoh Member of Parliament who was sacked by Mr Najib from the Cabinet and the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

DAP national organising secretary Anthony Loke noted that Dr Mahathir’s new party will likely not step on any toes as it will be gunning for all the seats held by Umno.

“But Dr M’s new party might be more focused on the 88 seats Umno won. So the focus is not so much on seats we have already won, but seats that we have not won yet. Because that is important to reach Putrajaya.

“We admit it is not going to be easy, and it will be an uphill task to ensure everyone unites to go directly against BN, but we are prepared to try,” he said.

Amanah vice-chairman Mujahid Yusof Rawa said the new party will not be in competition with the existing opposition parties as each party would cater to a different set of voters “according to our strengths that we can mobilise”. MALAY MAIL ONLINE

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