By Tay Tian Yan
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) has been established for one year now.
Has it matured yet? Is it strong enough now to face the general election? Can it bring on a Malay political tsunami?
Is it just a bubble that is not going to do anything big or one that will eventually burst?
Only when the votes are cast and counted on election day, will we know the answer. Till then, it will only fuel more comments from observations made.
Last weekend, the party held its first anniversary celebration in Muar.
The choice of venue is understandable. Muar is PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin’s hometown and his political “home ground”.
Muhyiddin was born and raised in Muar. His father was a religious cleric respected in the Malay community, and the family has extensive connections there.
Although he later moved over to nearby Pagoh and won a seat there, he took very good care of his hometown when he later became Johor menteri besar, minister, and eventually deputy prime minister.
It has been rumoured that he will stand in Muar – which has a significantly larger Chinese population than Pagoh – in the next general election (GE14). And this underlines Muar’s importance to PPBM.
The party chose to celebrate its first anniversary in Muar, and Mahathir and Mukhriz had earlier through the grassroots and social media urged the public to make a trip to Muar to support the party.
A stage and tents were put up in the middle of the town square, and a full day of programmes had been planned: cooking classes, health talks, drawing contests, cultural shows, mini football games, motorcycle decoration contests, etc, in an effort to woo the old and young and everyone in between.
However, there were only about two to three hundred people who attended the event throughout the morning, including the staff and party members.
My observant friend said, “These activities were similar to those of Umno. A ‘copy and paste’ thing.”
The only difference was perhaps the name of the party.
By comparison, nevertheless, Umno is way more powerful in organising and mobilising people. PPBM is nowhere near that.
At three in the afternoon, Muhyiddin and Mukhriz arrived. The MC tried to liven up the crowd as he chanted the party’s slogan. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much response from the participants.
When Muhyiddin walked around to greet those present, there wasn’t much excitement amongst the crowd either. Only a few took the initiative to talk to him when he was alone.
It was a world of difference from when he was the DPM, for sure.
The PPBM president looked frustrated and indeed a little bewildered. It looked like he wasn’t quite used to life as an opposition leader yet.
The mood improved marginally when Mahathir arrived soon afterward, as people crowded around him and shook hands with him. The jovial atmosphere nevertheless did not last too long.
Some of the people left soon after they got their prizes, hardly bothering about the politicians who were still there.
When night fell, PPBM held a political talk at a half-filled local community hall.
Muhyiddin and Mahathir took turns to deliver their speeches which invariably focused on 1MDB and Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Nothing new in their speeches. Not much excitement from the crowd either. Some who were impatient, left early .
I felt PPBM should have conveyed to the Malay community its raison d’être, reform agenda and objectives of its political struggle over the past one year, instead of harping on the same old issues. Moreover, the Malay community is hardly impressed by such arguments.
Thanks to Mahathir’s presence, PPBM was able to draw some attention although many in the Malay community are not too conversant as to why the party came into being, except to topple Najib and Umno. They are also unease to sure what PPBM can do for them.
To the Malays, throwing out Najib is never an issue close to their hearts, but bringing down Umno could very much go against their own interests.
While PPBM wants to take the place of Umno, it has failed to come out of Umno’s shadows. Empty ideologies and the fighting for power may only win over a handful of dejected voters but hardly gain the acceptance of mainstream Malay community.
How many seats can PPBM win? Will it ever initiate a Malay tsunami? Will there be a change of government this time?
Unlike most political pundits, I’m not going to draw any conclusions here. Only time will tell.
Tay Tian Yan writes for Sin Chew Daily.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.