KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 — Several analysts said Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should be disbanded after its abysmal showing in the 15th general election, suggesting that its components’ pro-Malay message during campaigning had failed to resonate among its intended target group.
The political analysts polled pointed to how the coalition and its dominant component Parti Pejuang Tanahair failed to make the most of their racial narrative, by losing all 125 parliament seats it contested.
“Both Pejuang and GTA’s 15th general election defeats were not a shock. On the contrary, they were expected.
“What was quite surprising though was the scale of the defeat. Both Pejuang and GTA should just wind up. They are toothless without Tun Dr Mahathir,” Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid told Malay Mail.
With such a bleak assessment, Ahmad Fauzi said younger leaders within the coalition should consider migrating to other political parties in the long term for their own good and political future.
He reiterated his previous assessment, stating that GTA would only prevail as long as Dr Mahathir is at the helm.
Despite veteran statesman Dr Mahathir fronting it, the coalition — contesting under Pejuang’s logo and Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia’s (Putra) logo in Kelantan — only managed to obtain 111,373 total votes or 0.71 of the popular vote among the total registered voters.
In contrast, Perikatan Nasional (PN) captured 73 seats in its general election debut, despite playing the same ethnoreligious card and also presenting itself as a “cleaner” coalition without Umno’s political baggage.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) senior lecturer Mazlan Ali said Dr Mahathir should disband GTA after his recent remark on his wish to “focus on writing about the history and activities of the country” — which some saw as a sign of him announcing his retirement from active politics.
Dr Mahathir failed to defend his Langkawi seat — his first electoral defeat in 53 years.
The seat was won instead by PN candidate Datuk Mohd Suhaimi Abdullah, with a majority of 13,518 votes. Dr Mahathir lost his deposit as well.
Dr Mahathir’s loss came despite a widespread appreciation for his contributions in Langkawi and his home state of Kedah, in what is likely to be the end of the country’s longest-serving leader with a once-storied political career.
Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun predicted doom for both Pejuang and GTA, pointing to their similar “leader-centric” political setup.
“As the leader seems disinterested in continuing with his political struggle, these political tools would fade into oblivion,” he said, referring to Dr Mahathir.
Rozhan Othman, a senior partner at Human Capital Development Sdn Bhd, also echoed their sentiments that Dr Mahathir should continue with his rest from politics.
“GTA never had much traction in the first place. Looking at GTA from the point of the ideological spectrum, it has difficulty carving out a niche for itself.
“In business, we’d say that GTA does not have a unique value proposition,” he said.
GTA was formed by Dr Mahathir ahead of the 15th general election, and after he severed ties with the PH pact he had led to victory in the 14th general election. PH has since formed the federal government.
Besides Pejuang, GTA’s members include Putra, led by Malay supremacist group Perkasa’s former president Datuk Ibrahim Ali, Islamist party Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) which put candidates from hardline group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), and the Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional (Iman).
Ahead of campaigning, Dr Mahathir insisted that despite its pro-Malay stance, GTA is not racist or hostile to non-Malays.