Analysts: GTA, Pejuang remain politically irrelevant, joining Muafakat might be Dr Mahathir's last hope
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Parti Pejuang Tanah Air's (Pejuang) decision to quit Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) might have dampened their chances to remain relevant within Malaysia’s political landscape, analysts said.
Analysts however said this may have opened the space for former Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s final push to remain pertinent by a potential merger with former Umno veteran Tan Sri Anuuar Musa-led NGO dubbed Muafakat Nasional (MN).
According to Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) sociopolitical analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi the merger would benefit both sides.
"Like it or not, GTA has to cooperate with MN, otherwise they will compete with each other and harm both of them,” he told Malay Mail.
He also said that such a move also was due to Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) no longer considering both Pejuang and GTA as a political force to be reckoned with.
"For sure BN and PH will not want to work with Pejuang or GTA because they are seen as weak and rejected by their own people and supporters,” he added.
Echoing Awang, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said the cooperation between GTA and MN is a match made in heaven as both political sides fall in the same ideological line — to champion Malay-Muslim rights.
"GTA under Dr Mahathir apparently on merger talk with similarly racial-centered minded Muafakat, while Pejuang is awaiting miracle under Mukhriz after the larger than life Dr Mahathir's departure," he said referring to Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.
On the other hand, Assistant Professor of Political Science at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) Syaza Syukri said that neither GTA nor Pejuang would have the brightest future in their political endeavors.
She said that the merger between GTA and MN would be inclined to be just another Malay NGO rather than a fierce political rival to face BN or PN.
"I don't think that Pejuang or GTA has a bright future ahead. If GTA works with MN, they will go down the route of a 'Malay NGO' but with less teeth.
"So politically they're really irrelevant as we already have PN and Umno for a more Malay-centrist party," she said.
Meanwhile, Senior Fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said that MN is more suitable to forge a partnership with PN given the political influence that the latter has is much more robust compared to Dr Mahathir-led GTA.
"I think MN is more suitable to PN since they have a stronger base in terms of political attraction but if MN were to join GTA it will lose its political attraction by settling with being with another NGO," he said.
Recently, it was reported that Dr Mahathir and 12 other members had quit Pejuang due to the party's decision to cut ties with GTA.
Two days ago, Dr Mahathir was reported to have met Annuar to discuss the unification of the Malays and the trajectory of Malay NGOs.
Dr Mahathir formed Pejuang after breaking off from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in 2020, in the aftermath of the political turmoil that brought down the Pakatan Harapan government earlier that year.
In August last year, GTA’s establishment was announced by Dr Mahathir in August 2022 — during a period of intense speculation that GE15 would be held soon — and was promoted as a coalition aimed at helping the Malays, especially in terms of economic strength.
Post-GE15, on December 16, the 98-year-old veteran politician resigned as the Pejuang’s chairperson. Subsequently, the party had on January 14, called its quits with GTA.
GTA is now left with parties Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra), Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) and Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional (Iman).
In a report by Malaysiakini, Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir said the decision was made after considering the views of delegates in the party’s second general assembly following the party’s poor performance in GE15.
In GE15, all 121 of GTA’s candidates lost their deposits including Dr Mahathir who failed to defend his Langkawi parliamentary seat and Mukhriz in Jerlun where he had been the MP since 2018.