The establishment of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) has sparked fierce discussion amongst many. The party is said to have shallow and short term goal which is to topple the current Prime Minister and the government in office and that it lacks sustainable and solid values to preach. Besides, many are baffled by the fact that the party has not been inclusive enough when it only allows for Bumiputera memberships.
On August 17, Tun Mahathir wrote in his blog that Bersatu is Malay-based because the majority in the rural and semi-urban areas are comfortable with Umno-type racism.
“The sophisticated and highly educated urban people may believe that racial politics is not in keeping with the times."
“But on the ground it is different. For the rural people who largely are poor, race is not only important but they believe (it) is essential for their well-being. Umno’s popularity is because it is a racial party."
“If the new party is to compete with Umno, it must give the people in the rural constituencies and the unsophisticated urban constituencies the kind of comfort associated with Umno’s kind of racism.”
It is clear that what Mahathir was talking about is an issue of strategy and tactic. Being a man in a hurry, he has the find the most effective strategy to achieve his aim of toppling Najib. Thus, the question of forming a party that can appeal to all Malaysians was far from his mind.
Having been Umno’s longest serving president, Mahathir knows too well the real reason of Umno’s rural strength and advantage in combating against the opposition. It now remains to be seen how he can persuade the rural voters to abandon Umno for Bersatu.
Actually by forming a new party, Mahathir is naturally open to new attacks that his new and expanded objective is to defeat Umno and BN in the general election. Such attacks from Umno will gain traction with the Malays, especially the rural Malays. Then why has Mahathir decided to form a new party?
The recent Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-election results have proven that Pakatan Harapan that comprise DAP, Parti Amanah and PKR were unable to affect Umno support in rural areas. PAS is the only party that can compete to some extent against Umno for rural Malay support but it is clear that PAS will almost for certain go it alone in the next general election and thus BN will gain from three cornered fights just like it did in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.
The formation of Bersatu is therefore needed if Mahathir wants to keep pursuing his agenda.