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The nouveau riche in Malaysian politics

  • Now that Umno is down and out, PPBM makes a natural choice for the conservative Malay society. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

Founded barely two years, PPBM has exhibited its pompous style in last week's general assembly.

It was held in Putrajaya International Convention Center, which is not as big as Umno's PWTC for sure, but wins in its stylish architecture and comfortable setting that reminisces the Malay nobility.

The delegates were given a door gift of Herschel backpack, a well-known brand from Canada that costs upwards of RM300 each.

Sumptuous food painstakingly prepared by the convention center's chefs was also served to the 2,000-strong delegates.

The point is, the general assembly was held in Putrajaya as a symbol of the party's status as the master of Putrajaya while its members are now assuming the role as the nouveaux riches in Malaysian politics.

Indeed, PPBM has become the new big gun in Malaysian politics.

When PPBM was established, it was thought to have been put together hastily just to fight the election war. Save for a few political elites, majority of the party's members were hardly anybody, mostly rejects from Umno.

The party would burst like a bubble once the election was over.

The party won 13 parliamentary seats in the general elections. It didn't burst like a bubble like many had anticipated even though it was still the smallest among the PH component parties, trailing far behind PKR and DAP.

Many wouldn't think this party would do anything big at all.

But in under one year, things have changes. PPBM has not only survived, but has grown by the day.

There are three factors that have contributed to this twist of fate: Mahathir, Umno and the Malay political tradition.

Mahathir's power and status are unparalleled in this country at the moment, and being anchored safely under his unrivaled power, PPBM is being constantly nourished and growing by leaps and bounds.

When Mahathir first came to power, people thought he was only a transitional leader about to pass on the baton in two years' time, as PH parties believed.

But they have overlooked one thing. Malaysia's prime minster has all the powers to himself, and Mahathir himself is a strong advocate and masterful manipulator of Machiavellianism.

Although PPBM is only a small party, it has second most cabinet positions. The party's position remains solid even though some of its cabinet members have unperformed and indeed utterly disappointing.

Secondly, Mahathir is undermining Umno's leadership foundation, forcing the party's members to quit en masse.

Given the similarities in the two parties' genetic make-up, those departing Umno have found a new home in PPBM. And indeed they will only the protection of the power to be by so doing.

Meanwhile, Umno has split into three different factions today, one that is joining or prepared to join PPBM, one that is still staying put but trying to get close to Mahathir and support him as PM when the need arises. The last faction, of course, makes up of die-hard Umno loyalists that continue to play the role of opposition.

Mahathir has the first two in his hand and is exploiting the situation to significantly boost his PPBM.

Thirdly, the Malay society has its own political tradition that is closely linked to its ethnicity, language and religion. It has a unique political mission: to defend the status and privileges of the Malays and Muslims.

In the past, this was done through Umno. Now that Umno is down and out, a new political entity has to do this job.

PKR is a multiracial party that hardly wins the trust of conservative Malays; Amanah lacks representation in the Malay society; and while PAS gets a lot of support, the party doesn't seem to have much chance of making it to Putrajaya.

Against such a backdrop, PPBM makes a natural choice for the conservative Malay society.



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