I think a leader should know how to read the people’s thoughts and gauge whether their time is up.  

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, two-time prime minister

I do realise it isn’t nice, unfair even, to pour cold water on a political party that has not even been registered.

It’s likely to cause more pain too at a time when the party is still licking its wounds after an electoral defeat.

But let reality set in.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) was a wash-out in the just-concluded Slim by-election in Perak.

The defeat was expected but the margin of victory for its BN/Umno opponent, a majority of 10,945 votes, was shocking. Notwithstanding the fact that the Pejuang candidate stood as an Independent, it was made known to all from the start that he was a representing Pejuang. 

Two weeks ago, I had posited here with a query to Dr Mahathir as to why he had to form yet another Malay-based party.

I am not into race or religion-based political parties and I’m proud to state again that there are no such parties in Sarawak.

For Dr Mahathir to do so, talk of the racist streak in the nonagenarian as alleged by many, has surfaced again. Clearly, this has not worked in his favour as evidenced from the Slim defeat.

I’m glad that two academicians and political analysts have also questioned the wisdom and rationale in doing so.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Azmi Hassan opined that Pejaung may find it difficult to stay relevant if it tries to be another Malay-Muslim party in an already crowded field.

“For Pejuang to remain relevant, it needs a different brand from Bersatu, Umno and PAS.

“For voters at present, Pejuang is not very much different from Bersatu, Umno and PAS. There is nothing new that is being offered,” Azmi added.

I think Azmi is on the dot in his assessment.

Announcing the establishment of Pejuang recently, Dr Mahathir had said that his new party was intended to replace Bersatu and Umno, which he claimed have strayed from their original struggle.

If I were a Malay, I would also not find that convincing enough to switch my support to Dr Mahathir’s new outfit, had I been a long-time supporter of either Umno, Bersatu or PAS.

For the record, Pejuang, Bersatu, Umno and PAS are all Malay-Muslim-centric parties.

Another political analyst, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Kartini Aboo Talib also cast doubt on the effectiveness of Dr Mahathir’s anti-corruption messages.

She said many of the current leaders, including Dr Mahathir himself, have had their own controversies.

“Therefore, it is hard to find a leader who is truly free from corruption,” Kartini said, adding that Pejuang will need a clear agenda for it to remain relevant.

I believe Kartini summed it up best where corruption is concerned.

Many are still dumbfounded as to why a man who has been prime minister, not once but twice, and at 95 is still keen on leading a new party.

Speculations that Dr Mahathir was still keen to be prime minister for the third time and that he was creating a platform to prepare his son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, for the nation’s top job are not altogether unfounded.

However, I doubt a three-time premiership for Dr Mahathir will become a reality.

As for Mukhriz, I think it’s high time for the son to step out of his father’s shadow.

Mukhriz should know how to soar like a bird by now and if he still has to walk a step behind his father at his age and experience, then perhaps he isn’t fit to be prime minister.  

We are talking about a man who is not a political newbie but one who has been a deputy minister and the menteri besar of a state on two occasions.

I do not see much of a future for Pejuang unless Mukhriz, as the party president, is prepared to overturn his old man’s stubborn dictatorial ways and overcome his uneasy ties with political allies.

For its immediate survival, it only makes sense for Pejuang to ally itself with one of the main coalitions, be it Pakatan Harapan or Perikatan Nasional.

Failing which, Pejuang will likely meet its demise as soon as the grand old man leaves the scene.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. Feedback can reach him at tribunenew2019@gmail.com