Placard incident shows insignificance of PPBM
NEWSMEN jostled through the crowd in the modest Raja Muda Musa hall on Sunday to reach Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as he walked towards his vehicle after the 12th PKR National Congress.
They wanted to know why the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) chairman did not raise the blue placard that declared his former nemesis and protege, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, as Malaysia’s “7th Prime Minister”.
Dr Mahathir refused to answer whether he supported Anwar as the prime minister-designate. But, later, in the split second before he entered his vehicle, the elder politician smiled and nodded slightly as a sign of confirmation.
His loyalist and PPBM president, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, had left the event soon after the placard gimmick and Dr Mahathir was left wondering whether he had just been delivered a hard blow by PKR leaders — Muhyiddin is no longer the chosen one as much as he and Dr Mahathir had hoped for.
The incident, to all and sundry, depicts the amount of influence or clout possessed by Dr Mahathir’s PPBM. More often than not, most observers tend to forget that PPBM is already a part of the Pakatan Harapan opposition pact. In reality, that is how insignificant PPBM is.
While it is full of notables at the top, PPBM remains a fledgling trying to find its footing in former enemy territory, analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian says.
“PPBM’s struggle is against one man, but its partners are against the system. Between PPBM and the rest of Pakatan Harapan members, they have different objectives despite a few similarities. It is still trying to find its place in the pact, in the comfort of strangers.”
The unanimous vote for Anwar by Pakatan Harapan leaders is also seen as a subtle tap to remind PPBM and Dr Mahathir of their place in the pact; but PKR vice-president Tian Chua put it clearly during a winding-up speech at the congress when he said: “Back then, during such gatherings just like this one today (Sunday), we called for Dr Mahathir to step down from office. And, now, Dr Mahathir and Muhyiddin are among us. And, when he was attacked by media for committing a ‘U-turn’, Dr Mahathir said only stupid drivers did not take U-turns.
“But, Anwar is way smarter. He was waiting at the junction for his friends to take the U-turns. (Anwar would say) ‘Where did you go? I had already told you that this was the right direction!’.”
PKR’s plan to make Anwar the prime minister candidate is also a reminder to Dr Mahathir that he is not in a position to demand as he pleases, unlike what was portrayed or perceived earlier.
For instance, PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, in his speech at the wing’s assembly, said while PPBM was welcomed into the fold, it would have to learn a thing or two about working with its new partners.
“I know that the acceptance of PPBM (in Pakatan Harapan) is received by some with mixed feelings. But, changes in politics demand compromises.
“If back then, we told Dr Mahathir that there should be no leaders with absolute power, today will be the opportunity for us to educate him on why complicated but principled negotiations should be carried out before reaching a collective decision.”
Perhaps, Dr Mahathir and his acolytes thought brand names would be more than enough to command the reins. However, such perceptions thin as soon as they step into the new wilderness.
It is no secret that Dr Mahathir had never wanted Anwar to become the prime minister following their fallout almost 20 years ago. In fact, he had even said Pas president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was the better candidate since the former Terengganu menteri besar did not have any baggage.
Dr Mahathir, too, is lumbering ahead of a huge baggage after 22 years as prime minister. Worse, spectres of past are catching up with him to show that nothing, including his astounding political prowess, lasts forever.