Mahathir announces new 'independent' Malay-based party

Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad will set up another Malay-based political party, and will not align it with either of the two largest blocs in Parliament, he announced yesterday.

The party, which has yet to be named, will be formed by Tun Dr Mahathir along with four other MPs who are currently independent after being removed from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which is led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Dr Mahathir said the new party will be "bebas" - or independent - from the other political blocs.

The former premier, 95, will be its chairman while his son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, is expected to be its president. The party will add to the crowded political scene in Malaysia - especially ones serving the Malay electorate.

Three Malay-based parties - Bersatu, Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia - are currently in the same bloc that forms the governing Perikatan Nasional alliance.

Another is the Malay-majority, multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

PKR, with yet another Malay faction, Parti Amanah Negara, is in the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition with Chinese-based Democratic Action Party.

"I know there are already too many Malay political parties, but the other (Malay) parties have deviated from their original struggles," Dr Mahathir said at a press conference.

Dr Mahathir's decision to set up an independent party signals his increasingly strained relationship with Mr Anwar, who heads the three-party PH opposition bloc.

"We would like to work with Pakatan Harapan, but there are some obstacles there," said Dr Mahathir , whose announcement followed yesterday's decision by the High Court on the application by Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who is also president of Bersatu, and three others to strike out a lawsuit by Dr Mahathir and four other people.

The High Court accepted Mr Muhyiddin's application to dismiss the lawsuit over the revocation of their party membership.

On July 23, Dr Mahathir said that if the court decision was not in his favour, he would form a new party.

Dr Mahathir and Mr Muhyiddin founded Bersatu in 2016, but they split up following the collapse of the then ruling PH coalition at the end of February this year, after Mr Muhyiddin and some 40 other MPs defected to form the Perikatan Nasional alliance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2020, with the headline 'Mahathir announces new 'independent' Malay-based party'. Print Edition | Subscribe