Bersatu sources say party leadership keen on 'big tent' with Opposition, but rejection may come chiefly from PKR

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's top leadership is keen for a so-called "big tent" alliance with Opposition parties Parti Pejuang Tanah Air and Warisan in a bid to challenge Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob even ahead of the 15th general election (GE15), party sources have said.

Speaking anonymously, the sources said the proposal was among issues discussed during the party's Supreme Council meeting last week and had even included the possibility of allying with former allies-turned-rivals in Pakatan Harapan (PH).

"If the Opposition banded together, Ismail can be challenged without an election. Failing that, GE15 would benefit with one-to-one fights,” said one source from Bersatu.

Another source confirmed the matter, however saying that the proposal had faced opposition from some Bersatu leaders as it would not guarantee that the post of prime minister will fall to the party.

"It's just that now Bersatu is not doing it anymore because if Ismail Sabri falls, we don't know who will rise," said the source.

"So the party doesn’t want that to happen. Because Bersatu has the intention to reclaim the prime minister's post,” said the source.

Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin previously led the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government after allying itself with former enemies Umno and PAS in the so-called "Sheraton Move" that brought about the fall of the PH administration after 22 months.

Currently, BN holds 41 seats along with six more from independent MPs and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) who are BN-friendly. It also holds the confidence of 69 other seats from Bersatu-led PN and Gabungan Parti Sarawak, to currently hold the majority in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat.

Measured independently, Opposition PH is the largest bloc with 90 seats along with Malaysia United Democratic Alliance's (Muda) one seat.

Another Bersatu source said the party is now "more than 90 per cent ready" to face the general election if it is called this year.

He said that the party has also finished its seat negotiations with allies in PN: PAS, Gerakan, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR), and Parti Progresif Sabah (SAPP).

"The seat allocation is done and all parties have started working towards the election if called this year,” said the source.

Last month, PN chairman and Bersatu president Muhyiddin said he was open to the "big tent” idea, adding that this would avoid clashes between PN and PH while ensuring a straight fight with BN in the election.

However, it is likely that the proposal would not sit well with PH components, especially PKR which has seen some of its top leaders publicly rejecting an alliance with Bersatu and Pejuang.

Several sources from PKR said it much prefers working with PH, or "PH Plus" which previously included Warisan, Pejuang and Muda.

“For now, we are looking to strengthen PKR and PH. The big tent strategy should not include those who had betrayed the people during the 'Sheraton Move',” a PKR source told Malay Mail, referring to Bersatu and several PKR MPs who had defected then.

Another source also said that PKR is still resistant to the idea of allying itself with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his party Pejuang, which had led to the failure of PH Plus rising off the ground in 2020.

“They would not choose Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as PM candidate,” said the source, referring to PKR president and its prime minister candidate.

Anwar was previously reported dismissing suggestions that he is the architect of the “big tent” strategy that seeks to unite all anti-Umno forces, but insisted that PH would not close its door if there are parties that want to talk.

Other PH parties are more welcoming of the strategy. Amanah deputy president Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said it should be considered, as parties such as Bersatu and PAS are still the Opposition at some state governments despite being part of the federal government.

Meanwhile, DAP former secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the approach should be taken to reclaim PH's mandate as a constitutionally-elected government by voters, and the Opposition bloc should not waste time as its objective is only achievable through a starting point of 105 MPs.

GE15 must be called by September next year.

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