Malaysia's political scene just got a little more crowded yesterday with the application to register a new party led by former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Calling it Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or Bersatu (United) for short, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said the "party is inclusive in nature, progressive and open-minded", with full membership open to bumiputeras, while non-bumiputeras can be associate members. Bumiputeras include Malays, natives from Sabah, Sarawak and the Orang Asli group.
Associate members are not allowed to vote or contest for party positions but can be appointed to key posts. Pribumi is another word for the bumiputera races.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad will be Bersatu's chairman, while his son Mukhriz will be the vice-president. Mr Muhyiddin will be the party's president.
Bersatu's formation is the next big step taken by former Umno leaders who want to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak in the aftermath of the huge scandal surrounding troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Dr Mahathir quit Umno in February after he failed to convince the party to remove Datuk Seri Najib. Mr Muhyiddin and Datuk Seri Mukhriz, formerly chief minister of Kedah state, were sacked from the party by Mr Najib for allegedly colluding with the opposition.
Malaysia has almost 40 political parties, with more than 15 parties occupying seats in the federal Parliament and the 13 state legislatures.
Bersatu is facing flak from some activists on its bumiputera-only policy, rather than welcoming all races as ordinary members. They are worried that the new party will be a clone of Umno, with its sole agenda being PM Najib's removal.
To leaders of the new party, having a bumiputera-first party in the opposition will help attract Umno members who might be uncomfortable joining the other opposition parties. Asked if Bersatu would be open to Umno members, Mr Muhyiddin said yesterday , after submitting registration documents in Putrajaya: "Now there's a new space, open to not just Umno members but to anyone else who shares the same goals as us. The party's objective is to fight for the rights of all people, equally."
No timeline was given as to when the registration would be approved.
The opposition pact of Pakatan Harapan has cosied up to Dr Mahathir, 91, a man once seen as a dictator who crushed Malaysia's independent institutions, from the judiciary to graft-busters, during his 22 years as prime minister.
However, some uneasiness remains as allies of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim are uncomfortable over the prospect of joining hands with Dr Mahathir.
Mr Muhyiddin said the party is looking to "create a government that is clean, trustworthy, with integrity". It hopes to reform institutions and rid the country of corruption.