Analysts: Free of his father's shadow, Mukhriz finally paving his own political path
KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — After years of being in his father’s shadow, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir is finally charting his own political path.
At the top of his agenda is saving his party Pejuang from falling into obscurity.
Mukhriz’s recent request to join Perikatan Nasional (PN) shocked many as the coalition is led by former ally turned foe Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin of Bersatu as well as Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang of PAS.
After all, both these leaders are feuding with his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Muhyiddin is the one who removed Dr Mahahtir from Bersatu, the party he founded back in 2016. He went on to become Malaysia’s eighth prime minister after toppling the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government which was in power for a mere 22 months.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid questioned if Muhyiddin would be willing to work with Mukhriz after the latter’s accusations of greed and deceit.
He felt Mukhriz was trying to save the party and what little political influence it had before it fell into obscurity.
“It looks to me like a desperate attempt to salvage Mukhriz’s political career when it has become clear that the large majority of Malays reject extreme right-wing politics a la Pejuang and Gerakan Tanah Air. But Malaysians won’t easily forget Mukhriz’s video just before GE15 insinuating corruption on the part of Muhyiddin. Will Muhyiddin as chairman of PN be prepared to forgive Mukhriz?” he asked.
“I think Mukhriz and his father Dr Mahathir have a tacit understanding to allow Mukhriz to carve his own political trajectory since he has many more years ahead of him. Mukhriz has to desperately find a solution to save Pejuang’s four state seats: two in Kedah and two in Selangor, which were gained by defections.
“By contesting under the PN banner, the Pejuang incumbents can hopefully retain their seats riding on PN’s green wave. It’s not a ploy by Dr Mahathir, but rather a strategic move designed to prevent a political Waterloo for his son,” he said when contacted.
Dr Mahathir had been accused of trying to save his son’s political career by leaving Pejuang last month and joining Putra. He quit after Pejuang decided to withdraw from the GTA coalition.
The move was seen as the only option for Dr Mahathir as most of the other Malay right wing groups come under the PN umbrella.
DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang also questioned Dr Mahathir’s move to join Putra. Lim wondered why Dr Mahathir, who has not only been the country’s PM twice but is also nearly a century old, still claimed the Malay community was losing political and economic control in Malaysia, to the point they needed rescuing.
Asked if this was a ploy by Dr Mahathir to try to broaden his influence and team up later with Mukhriz, Oh Ei Sun, a Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, felt that theory was a stretch.
“Dr Mahathir is nearly a centurion and has no political need to be conspiratorial and falling out publicly with his son to hedge his political bet. Dr Mahathir may very reluctantly work with Muhyiddin again, but never with PAS, as he is religiously moderate,” he told Malay Mail.
“It’s not about teaming up with Bersatu per se. It is the observation that the Malay electorate at large is now flocking to the green wave in general, and PAS in particular, and abandoning Umno and PH en masse. So you want to be a part of the winning side,” said
In February, Dr Mahathir and 12 others quit the party after the party cut ties with the GTA coalition.
Dr Mahathir formed GTA late last year, amid speculation of an early general election, to bring together Pejuang, two minor Malay-based parties, and Malay professionals. He founded Pejuang in 2020 after quitting Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
He stepped down as Pejuang chairman on December 16, 2022, after all 125 of GTA candidates including him and Mukhriz lost their deposits in the 15th general election but stayed on as GTA chairman.
The alternative move for Pejuang would be to join the unity government but this may make the current Umno administration unhappy and uneasy according to Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Professor Azmi Hassan.
He too felt this move to join PN was Mukhriz’s own doing.
“I believe this is Mukhriz acting on his own and has nothing to do with Dr Mahathir... that’s why he quit Pejuang. Pejuang has two choices either PN or PH and if they chose PH, Umno would feel uneasy, so PN was the best option.
“The value added to PN, however, is not that much.
“Tun knew well before that Pejuang was going to join PN and that would be a problem for him as he would want to do things his way. This would be difficult in PN as there are strong names, big names in the party that would make it difficult for Tun to have his way politically.
“So he chose Putra since Putra needs Tun more than Tun needs them,” he said, referring to Dr Mahathir.