Academic Wan Saiful Wan Jan to join Malaysia's opposition Pribumi, activist Maria Chin says may contest election

Talk is rife that Wan Saiful Wan Jan will join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and contest a seat in Johor or Kedah.
Talk is rife that Wan Saiful Wan Jan will join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and contest a seat in Johor or Kedah.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Outgoing Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive officer, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, will be joining the opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) party led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

A media invite to his official induction ceremony to be held Thursday (March 1) began to circulate on Tuesday.
The head of IDEAS, an independent think tank, had confirmed on Monday that he would leave his current party, the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), but kept mum on where he was headed to.
According to the itinerary listed on the media invite, Pribumi president Muhyiddin Yassin would announce Wan Saiful’s membership of the party at the event.
Wan Saiful is then slated to give a speech before a Q&A session and lunch with the Pribumi leadership and the Pakatan Harapan opposition alliance.
Speculation had been rife that he would be contesting in the upcoming general election, expected to be held in months, under the PPBM ticket, with the academic himself expressing a keen interest on the matter. He is expected to contest a seat in either Johor or Kedah.
When contacted by The Star on Monday (Feb 26), Wan Saiful said that his decision to switch parties came after his column in The Star titled It's High Time For A Shift To Policy, criticising rampant hypocrisy in Malaysian politics was published on Feb 13.

In the article, he lamented that politicians often played the race and religious card and rarely debated on policy and governance.

"In the same week the column was published, several unexpected conversations took place with leaders of different political parties," he said, adding that this led to his decision to quit PAS.

He said his switch from a think tank head to politician was made to "improve the quality of our political debate".

"PAS has warped into its 1980s thinking. Identity politics still dominate. We are overly fixated with the past and not sufficiently debating the future," he said.

"I intend to at least try to change that trajectory," added Wan Saiful, who leaves IDEAS on Wednesday (Feb 28).

IDEAS is an independent policy think tank he co-founded in 2009 after returning from Britain where he spent 18 years being involved in the British political system and working with Social Enterprise London, the Conservative Party's Research Department and the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit think tank.

The Northumbria University and Middlesex University alumnus was also a candidate for the Conservative Party in the 2007 local elections in Luton, England.

Wan Saiful's involvement with PAS began in 1992 and he became its life-long member in 1997.

In recent times, he has been critical of PAS and often criticises the Islamist party for its conservative ideology.

Meanwhile, activist Maria Chin Abdullah has confirmed that she had been asked to contest for the opposition in the election but has yet to make a decision over the matter.  

"It is a serious matter that is still under discussion, but one of the clear aims is to take the civil society agenda for justice, freedom, good governance, free and fair elections and human rights straight to Parliament and to support the ongoing struggle there in partnership with civil society organisations working on the ground," said the chairman of the electoral reform group.

"Once a decision is made one way or another, I will inform the public," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to sources, she has been slated to contest under the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) banner and replace either vice-president Tian Chua in his Batu parliamentary constituency in Kuala Lumpur, or his party colleague Hee Loy Sian in Petaling Jaya Selatan. 

Former Bersih chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan is also said to be a potential candidate to take on the Malaysian Indian Congress president S. Subramaniam in his parliamentary seat of Segamat in Johor.

More stories on the Malaysia election at