JOHOR BARU, Nov 30 — New political entity Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) and its anchor party Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) today denied that their defeat in the 15th general election (GE15) was due to the coalition’s pro-Malay narrative.
GTA deputy information chief Mahdzir Ibrahim blamed the weakness of the coalition’s leadership, especially its disorganised party machinery, for its poor electoral performance.
“The leadership’s weakness at the party level in GTA was due to the top leadership’s failure to learn from Pejuang’s defeat in the previous Johor state election in March.
“From March to the establishment of GTA in August, the coalition was not developed through organisational strength, competent machinery, and accurate information. As a result, we heard that many of our GTA candidates were not ready to contest GE15.
“I take this opportunity not only to correct the views and opinions of political analysts who claim that GTA carried a racist narrative, but to also explain the main reasons for the coalition’s defeat,” Mahdzir said in a statement today.
He was responding to last Sunday’s Malay Mail report that quoted several political analysts who said GTA, led by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, should be disbanded after its abysmal showing in GE15.
It was suggested that GTA’s disastrous showing was due to its pro-Malay message that had failed to resonate with its intended target group during campaigning.
Mahdzir explained that whether GTA decides to stay the course depends on the extent to which the political leadership can change and act according to the current needs.
He said that GTA’s survival will be up to the members and its leadership.
“The people will not be able to save GTA if its leadership does not want to learn from its mistakes,” he said.
Mahdzir, who is also Parit Sulong Pejuang parliamentary coordinator, described the analysts’ opinions as half-truths, but agreed that the GTA campaign’s failure to convince voters, especially the Malays, was undeniable.
“However, the allegation that the failure of the GTA campaign was due to the pro-Malay narrative or racist messaging is untrue and even wrong.
“This is because the racist narrative described by the analysts is based on the perception among liberal Malay groups only. The perception created by these liberal Malay groups is simplistic and not scientific. It is easy to label any term related to Malays and used by GTA as being racist in nature.
“Meanwhile, the basic principle that GTA is fighting for is integrity: Malays who are authoritative and clean against Malays who are corrupt,” he said.
Mahdzir, who was a former Pakatan Harapan (PH) strategist, explained that the essence of the narrative is about the struggle between choosing Malay leaders with integrity and authority and Malay leaders who are corrupt and untrustworthy.
“This is the real message that the analysts failed to read or deliberately ignored. They also failed to see that GTA’s defeat was directly related to the culture of money politics during campaigns.
“People’s aid is given out by political blocs to voters and machinery, with the purchase of billboards, and social media presence being so widespread during the GE15 campaign it dominated the perception of the people,” alleged Mahdzir.
Pro-tem GTA chairman Dr Mahathir was among the coalition’s 369 candidates for parliamentary seats who lost their deposit after obtaining less than one-eighth of the total number of votes in their targeted constituency in GE15.
The 97-year-old former prime minister, who contested Langkawi on a Pejuang ticket, failed to defend his seat for the second term and only obtained 4,566 votes out of a total of 48,123 votes in a five-cornered contest.
His son, Pejuang president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, also failed to defend the Jerlun parliamentary seat, securing only 3,144 votes after losing to the Perikatan Nasional (PN) candidate.