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Perikatan will get more from national tour than Syed Saddiq, analysts say

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Muda co-founder Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s decision to join Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) nationwide tour will help the coalition while resulting in negligible benefit for him and his party, said analysts.

After the end of the PN lawmakers’ convention last weekend, chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that Syed Saddiq would join in its countrywide roadshow — “Jelajah PN” — to win over non-Malay support.

Just a day later, however, Syed Saddiq tried to play down PN’s role in the planned tour, claiming it was a non-partisan effort to highlight problems facing the country.

“For me, I think Syed Saddiq is in a situation where he cannot win regardless of what he does,” said Syaza Shukri, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia.

“Muda likes to present itself as a reformist, progressive party that is ideologically closer to PH (Pakatan Harapan). By aligning with PN, he has lost some credibility in terms of what he personally stands for. But for me, he has never appeared as truly reformist because he was with Bersatu, after all, a Malay nationalist party.

“This will definitely benefit PN more as they can show their reach is wide and they have the support of MPs from all backgrounds. This is probably useful as PN tries to win over more support, especially from non-Malays. But I think the net effect would be relatively small because it is just Saddiq, not Muda,” she said.

Syed Saddiq, a former youth and sports minister, was a lawmaker for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and the chief of its Armada youth wing when it was still under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

After the “Sheraton Move”, Syed Saddiq and four other Bersatu MPs were sacked from the party in May 2020 after they sat with Opposition MPs in a parliamentary meeting. While Dr Mahathir and the other sacked MPs formed a new Malay-based party, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air or Pejuang, Syed Saddiq opted to establish Muda, a political party targeting youth.

During the 15th general election (GE15) in November 2022, Muda and PH agreed on an electoral pact not to contest similar seats and to work together for victory. PH then formed the national unity government with all parties excluding PN.

In September 2023, Muda withdrew support for the unity government to protest the conditional discharge of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over 47 corruption charges linked to Yayasan Akalbudi. It also decided to contest independently in the six state elections last year but lost in every seat it contested.

Soon after, Syed Saddiq was found guilty of corruption over the misappropriation of funds belonging to Armada, where he served as its chief three years ago. The High Court sentenced him to seven years in jail, two strokes of the cane, and a RM10 million fine following his conviction.

He previously accused Muhyiddin’s government of fabricating the charges to coerce his support. Despite this claim, Syed Saddiq still chose to align with Muhyiddin’s coalition after rejecting the unity government.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research (NASR) senior fellow Azmi Hassan said Syed Saddiq’s participation in the roadshow indicated that the Muar MP and his party was running out of choices.

“For Muda, this is the best option, and when we see Syed Saddiq with PN, it must be Muda as well together with PN by extension, so for Muda, it’s advantageous for them and it could bring about some positive vibes. Muda can attract non-Malay voters to PN, while PN leads Malay support in Malaysia, so it’s a win-win for both parties, but not for Syed Saddiq. It won’t be a political lifeline for him; it’s the end for him and his political career,” he told Malay Mail.

Zaharul Abdullah, a lecturer of political science at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said Syed Saddiq’s decision to align with PN was astute as they share common positions such as being critical of the national unity government’s performance.

With this roadshow, he said Syed Saddiq and PN leaders could position themselves as champions of reform and defenders of the people’s interests. He said this was important for Syed Saddiq given the outcome of his corruption trial.

“Additionally, I perceive his alignment with PN as a strategic manoeuvre to ensure his enduring relevance in the political arena in the long term. By aligning himself with PN, he aims to bolster his prospects for success in GE16.

“Despite potential tarnishing of his image due to PN’s communal associations, he also faces dwindling support from PH backers, particularly following Muda’s withdrawal of support from the Madani government. Thus, Saddiq stands to reap both short-term and long-term benefits from this alignment, although it’s not a complete alignment with PN at present, as he seeks to maintain some level of autonomy.

“Regarding whether this alignment constitutes a win for Syed Saddiq, PN, or both, I believe it offers advantages to both parties. He provides PN with added value in the Dewan Rakyat as he possesses strong debating skills and is perceived as principled due to his bold departure from a loose alignment with the Madani government.

“These principles and image enhancements, albeit modest, contribute to the overall effectiveness of the PN roadshow,” he said when contacted.