Mahathir's party could delay polls by up to 18 months: Sources

The potential delay is significant, party sources told ST, especially given Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's disappointment in some PPBM leaders' inability to run the party or perform in his federal government.
The potential delay is significant, party sources told ST, especially given Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's disappointment in some PPBM leaders' inability to run the party or perform in his federal government.PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) is set to make a swathe of changes to its constitution just two months shy of a deadline to hold its first-ever party elections.

An extraordinary general meeting has been called for July 20, with the most crucial change set to be a clause to allow polls for all party positions due on its third anniversary in September to be delayed by up to 18 months, sources told The Straits Times.

"Our branches and divisions are not ready to face polls, let alone at the national level. This is why Tun Mahathir has been upset," said a top leader who asked not to be named as the amendments drafted have only been released internally.

PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir had said last month: "It is important for us to have the polls earlier because the administration is based on leaders who were appointed who have failed to expand the party."

PPBM secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, who is responsible for the administration of party matters, reportedly said this month: "We are amending almost all of the clauses in the constitution."

Meanwhile, constitutional amendment committee member Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad also admitted that the party machinery could not cope with the demands of giving each member one vote for branch, division and central posts, and would have to revert to a delegate or electoral college system.

"When our party becomes stronger, we can implement our own system," said the former Umno secretary-general.

Several party officials, including Dr Marzuki Mohamad, special functions officer to president Muhyiddin Yassin, confirmed to The Straits Times the amendments would "improve the election" of office-bearers.

 
 
 
 

The potential delay is significant, party sources told The Straits Times, especially given Dr Mahathir's disappointment in some PPBM leaders' inability to run the party or perform in his federal government.

Should the polls be held later than the end of October, former Umno MPs who joined the party following the shock change of government in May last year will be eligible to contest.

Although not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, the leadership is empowered to impose certain rules for the election and a one-year minimum membership has been adopted as a criteria. Of the party's 26 federal lawmakers, half joined from Umno beginning with former trade minister Mustapa Mohamad on Oct 26, 2018, to a group of four from Sabah on March 15.

These Umno rebels have far greater resources than many existing leaders in PPBM, especially at the grassroots level, meaning they would be in a better position to win and carry out the duties of the posts at stake.

However, the positions of chairman, president and deputy president - the latter of which is held by Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz - will require three years' membership and an existing record in national leadership.

Furthermore, Dr Mahathir has yet to reshuffle his Cabinet despite repeatedly giving his team only 40 to 50 per cent ratings - a figure borne out by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government's falling approval in opinion surveys.

"PPBM will be the last ruling party to hold its party election. You don't want to make changes and find a newly appointed minister has no support from his party," a government official told The Straits Times.

The Democratic Action Party is the only party in government - including Sabahan ally Warisan - that has not held polls since taking federal power, but its central executive committee's term only ends in November 2020, and it can also be extended by 18 months.