Mahathir eyes new name for opposition alliance

KUALA LUMPUR • The political party led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad is to formally join the tripartite opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), with the former premier pushing to change the alliance's name and come up with a single logo to be used in the next general election.

The move could be read as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) giving up its bridging role between the Pakatan parties and the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

Tun Dr Mahathir, PPBM's chairman, said after its leadership meeting on Tuesday that the planned "grand opposition coalition" will have one manifesto and will field one candidate for every seat.

"We have agreed that besides a new name (for the PH-PPBM alliance), we also need to have a new logo and symbol for the general election," he told reporters, according to the FreeMalaysiaToday news site.

PAS, an opposition party that has become closer to Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling Umno, has been discussing for months a possible loose alliance with PPBM, with no deals announced.

PAS has said that it will not work with PH, whose members include its political enemies, the Democratic Action Party, which is against its Islamist agenda, and Parti Amanah Negara, which broke away from PAS.

The third member of PH is Parti Keadilan Rakyat, led by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir said that PAS is welcome to join the proposed new coalition. "We are open to forming an alliance with any party. Not just PAS, but there are also two, three other parties that are interested."

The opposition parties fear that without PAS on their side, the Islamist party will cause three-cornered fights in many constituencies, which will benefit the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

Meanwhile, both Dr Mahathir and Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz have agreed to a public debate in the latter's constituency of Padang Rengas, in northern Perak, on March 25, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

Datuk Seri Nazri, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Najib Razak, had asked Dr Mahathir to contest in the Perak constituency.

Dr Mahathir, 91, said that he is not contesting in any seat and they should hold a debate instead.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Mahathir eyes new name for opposition alliance'. Print Edition | Subscribe