How the Bersatu crisis plays out in the coming weeks will shape national politics for the rest of Mr Anwar’s mandate before he calls for fresh polls sometime in mid-2027.
“Bersatu has always relied on PAS and now the crisis is showing that the party is a hollow (political) vessel,” said Mr Syed Azman Syed Ahmad Nawawi, who is the chief executive officer of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia.
Bersatu was founded by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Mr Muhyiddin in 2016 after both politicians left the long-established United Malays National Organisation(UMNO) over deep differences with then-premier Najib Razak.
The party went on to play a crucial role in the historic victory by the multi-racial opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in the general election two years later and subsequently assumed leadership roles in government.
Dr. Mahathir was premier for 22 months, before Mr Muhyiddin wrested control of the premiership by leading a group of Bersatu defectors to form a new coalition government with factions in UMNO and the right-wing Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
Even after Mr Muhyiddin was forced to relinquish his premiership after 17 months, Bersatu leaders remained as central players in government until the general election in November 2022 that eventually paved the way for Mr Anwar to take over the premiership.
Mr Muhyiddin’s party currently has 27 elected MPs in the 222-member lower house and the party’s leadership has been reluctant to sack the rebelling MPs over fears that it could lead to more elected representatives opting to throw their support for the Anwar government.
Already, the four Bersatu MPs have requested that they be seated along-side government backbenchers, showing that they intend to make a clean break with the opposition.
The latest splintering in the Bersatu ranks reflect the growing restlessness in the party that is bereft of any political funding after its accounts were frozen by the authorities over allegations of abuse of power when the party was in government and concerns over the future of the party’s leadership.
Bersatu insiders acknowledged that Mr Muhyiddin and his deputy, Hamzah Zainuddin, who currently leads the opposition backbenchers in Parliament, do not see eye-to-eye on many issues.
Mr Hamzah, who is keen to take over the Bersatu leadership, does not have widespread support in the party.
Source: Channel News Asia