Dr Mahathir targets 30 seats for his new party, says a planned youth faction won't do well

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad speaking at a news conference in Putrajaya on Sept 3, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

PUTRAJAYA - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (Sept 3) that his new political party hopes to win at least 30 seats in the next general election to become a kingmaker.

Speaking at a news conference at his foundation in Putrajaya, the 95-year-old statesman also said that a planned youth "party" by a former protege, MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, is unlikely to do well in the polls.

"If we can get just 30 seats, we would be in a position to join either party (coalition). But in order for us to join, we must insist on certain conditions," Tun Dr Mahathir said, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.

"Perhaps 30 seats will be enough for us, we are not going to form the government by (ourselves), we are going to be the determinant as to who should be the government," he said.

Malaysia's general election isn't due until 2023, but there is widespread speculation that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin could call for snap polls in the next few months to strengthen his alliance's hold on power.

His Perikatan Nasional alliance of 12 parties has 111 MPs - exactly half of the 222-strong Parliament.

The Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition and its allies have 109 lawmakers on their side.

Another two MPs are independents.

Dr Mahathir, who was kicked out of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which he co-founded with Tan Sri Muhyiddin, recently announced the formation of a new faction.

He has applied for Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Fighters of the Nation Party) to be registered. It last month fielded its first candidate in a by-election in Slim, Perak.

The candidate stood as an independent, and was trounced by an Umno candidate who was defending the party's stronghold seat.

Bersatu had kicked out Dr Mahathir and five other MPs who sided with him.

Today, one of them, Mr Syed Saddiq, 27, is mulling the formation of a multiracial youth organisation, possibly a political party.

He has said that he wants to entice young voters with a group modelled after France's En Marche and the now-defunct Future Forward Party (FFP) of Thailand, and move the country away from entrenched aged lawmakers who have a strong grip on political discourse.

The new group, Mr Syed Saddiq has said, would comprise young technocrats, professionals and politicians who would ensure that "youth's voice will dominate in Parliament and outside of Parliament".

But Dr Mahathir said he isn't confident that Mr Syed Saddiq's group will be successful in a general election.

"I don't think it will be very successful because although youth make a big portion of the electorate, it is not enough for people to win just because they have the support of the youth," Dr Mahathir said, as quoted by The Star online news.

"In any constituency, there will be old people and there will be young people. We are going to appeal to the young people as well," he said. "If he only appeals to young people, it will be difficult for him to be successful."

Mr Syed Saddiq in his response to Dr Mahathir's remarks said on Twitter: "Thank you, Tun. We accept criticism with an open heart.

"This is a party led by youths for all Malaysians. The majority who will lead will be technocrats, professionals, entrepreneurs, modern farmers, civil society leaders, and others.

"We may be young but we love Malaysia."

Responding to questions from reporters after a public forum, former international trade minister Rafizah Aziz said she is worried that a youthful political party would inject a new layer of divisive politics.

"Everybody (is divided) in the sense of whether you are a man and I am a woman, or whether you are Malay, Indian or Chinese, and then there is (the divisiveness) between Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu. You know, how we are split," she said, as quoted by Malaysiakini. "Now you split between old and young. Don't we have divisiveness already in this country?"

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