Muafakat Nasional won’t gain traction as long as it is helmed by ‘political dinosaurs’, say analysts

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 — Muafakat Nasional's (MN) pivot to becoming an NGO is merely a ruse as long as "old" political figures remain its leaders, analysts say.

MN was a political coalition formed by Umno and PAS in 2019 against Pakatan Harapan which had come into power after the 2018 general elections.

Analysts added that MN president Tan Sri Annuar Musa's recent appointment of two former ministers Datuk Seri Zuraida Kamaruddin from Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) and Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof from Bersatu as deputy presidents clearly showed it was still trying to stay relevant in the political arena.

Universiti Sains Malaysia political science professor Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said MN is being used by political has-beens who refuse to step aside for the younger generation despite being given a chance to retire gracefully.

“Annuar has space for four deputies, but not a single younger generation deputy in his or her 30s or 40s was appointed.

“Not surprising that the bosses have refrained from joining formal party politics; they'll make a fool of themselves and end up being thrashed like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's Pejuang,” Fauzi explained.

“MN wont pick up as long as political dinosaurs are presented as their frontline leaders. Perikatan Nasional-Bersatu should just ignore MN and proceed to become a responsible Opposition with fresh ideas by MPs like (Datuk) Wan Saiful Wan Jan and Wan Ahmad Faysal Wan Ahmad Kamal.”

Annuar, the former long-serving Ketereh MP, was sacked from Umno in December for being critical of party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He was also not fielded as a candidate in the 15th general election.

Zuraida, the former plantation industries and commodities minister, failed to defend her Ampang seat as a PBM candidate in GE15. The parliamentary constituency was won by Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Rodziah Ismail.

Annuar, who is the former Umno and Barisan Nasional secretary-general, also announced that to date, MN has more than 25,000 members from across all 222 parliamentary constituencies nationwide.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said no one is buying MN's story of being an NGO especially when its leaders are mostly politicians who were booted from their respective parties.

“No one in their right mind will believe nor want to believe that assertion. MN is using this story to gauge the people's reaction and reception towards them.

“On their own they cannot be a political party as that is very hard to do, so by testing the waters they can try to gain some momentum or traction and if they can prove they have the numbers, they will become very attractive to PN,” Azmi told Malay Mail.

“As for their members, the numbers look promising and they can be influential but if we look closely, Zuraida has her own NGO before and she's been using it to exert some influence first in PBM, where she wasn't that successful, and now in MN so I'm not sure if those numbers are inclusive of Zuraida's NGO,” he added.

Zuraida's NGO is Penggerak Komuniti Negara (PKN). Having lost her Ampang seat, Zuraida said she will still continue to be of service to her constituents through PKN which she founded in 2017. It has about 53,000 members.

Syaza Shukri, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia, echoed Azmi's sentiments that MN is not an NGO. She said the appointments of Zuraida and Redzuan were to present a credible image.

“Plus looking at how they said they will create a committee for state leadership, there is no denying their long term goal,” she said.

Annuar said the NGO will launch a committee for state leadership based on the parliamentary and state assembly models in order to accommodate members.

As for why the state leadership is set up like a political party, Annuar said the Registrar of Societies (RoS) had approved this, and that “the objective was more important.”

“Like PN, I think they’re targeting the Malay heartland and as we have seen in the last election, the turnout was quite high. So I think they can easily win over people’s trust if they play their cards right on what issues to champion. But again, at the moment, PN is still strong so it is a matter of differentiating MN from PN.

“If MN gains traction, firstly we have to see who they will work with. Most likely it will be PN over Umno due to unhappiness by those who were dropped by Umno in 2022. So if MN joins PN, Umno will most likely lose more Malay support but it will totally depend on Umno’s line of leadership.

“If Zahid is still the president, I think Umno will rebrand itself to be more centrist. But if someone else leads Umno, they might want to bring Umno to the right again to compete with MN and PN. But I think that is not such a good strategy because Umno needs to reform its image as clean from corruption to win back Malay support,” Syaza said.

Research fellow from the Institute of Malaysian & International Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Muhamad Azwan Abd Rahman agrees and added that the public has lost its trust in Zuraida and Redzuan following the collapse of the PH government and Zuraida's role in the Sheraton Move.

Azwan said despite that, joining MN could pose a threat to the current unity government.

“After the recent election, these two figures have been disapproved of greatly by local voters and also their party, particularly Zuraida however, even though MN is not a political party but forming as an NGO can threaten the current unity government.

“MN will be a lobbyist for those not in favor of the government including those who are currently in the government. This is the role that MN will play for the foreseeable future.

“Who will bear the brunt of the work? That's yet to be decided as it needs a series of events to happen before we can analyse the situation.

“Hypothetically, if approval of MN gradually picks up, then the wave of support for PN and Bersatu will also rise. However, if the current government can strategise well and implement good policies in a timely manner, MN's role as a watchdog for PN-Bersatu will erode quickly and PAS will be left without a coalition in the next general election,” he said.