PAKATAN HARAPAN (PH) has yet to mark its first anniversary in power. Yet cracks have begun to appear in the coalition, thanks largely to the entry of former Umno MPs.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has quite happily welcomed MPs who won on Barisan Nasional (BN) tickets in GE14 into his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
These MPs are all from Umno, the party he once led and subsequently fought.
The crossovers have not gone down well with PPBM’s partners PKR and DAP.
The biggest loser – and most vehemently opposed to the crossovers – has to be PKR. It has 50 seats, making it the biggest party in PH, and its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is slated to be made prime minister just over a year from now.
Naturally, the fear within PKR is that if Mahathir manages to get more MPs, his party may very well become the strongest in the coalition and that may leave Anwar out in the cold.
But then again, that is a long shot by any measure. Even with the new additions from Umno, the party now has only 22 seats in Parliament.
DAP’s objection has nothing to do with any claim to the premiership. There is no way any leader in the Chinese-majority party will come close to getting the top job in the country.
But a stronger PPBM could diminish DAP’s influence within PH. Its 42 seats in Parliament makes it the second biggest party in the coalition. The party leaders are in no mood to be pushed down to third place.
Furthermore, the views held by some of the ex-Umno MPs do not go down well with DAP, if not most Malaysians.
Malaysian politics has always been race-based.
From the day Malaysia achieved independence, politics in the country has been largely based on race. The parties that won the first elections in 1955 were exclusively race-based – Umno for the Malays, MCA for the Chinese and MIC for the Indian community.
Six decades later, we have still not learned to recognise each other as Malaysians first.
In PH, two of the four parties – PPBM and Amanah – are exclusively Malay-Muslim-based while PKR, while multiracial in name, is largely Malay.
On the other hand, DAP, also supposedly multiracial, has always been more Chinese.
A stronger PPBM will strengthen Malay influence in the coalition at the expense of the non-Malays, and that is DAP’s main concern.
Despite their misgivings, very few, if any, PH leaders will confront Mahathir over his acceptance of ex-Umno MPs to strengthen his hand in the coalition.
And that, ultimately, could turn out to be their undoing.