PETALING JAYA,Nov 3: After stepping out of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s political shadow, Maszlee Malik may be able to create his own political brand but is likely to face fierce rivalry at the general election, say analyst.

Socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said it is a good move for Maszlee and former PPBM comrade Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to step out of Mahathir’s limelight.

“By distancing themselves, they are able to build their own name and own brand. Mahathir is a big name and it is difficult to be bigger than Mahathir,” he told FMT.

For instance, he said most of the earlier statements from Mahathir’s new political party, Pejuang, only bore Mahathir’s signature. “It is only now that the statements are signed by all four Pejuang MPs.”

The four MPs still in Pejuang are Mahathir, Mahathir’s son Mukhriz, Amiruddin Hamzah and Shahruddin Md Salleh.

Yesterday, Maszlee quit the pro-tem committee of Pejuang, saying his decision was based on “detailed observations and field research” of the people’s aspirations and needs.

However, Awang Azman cautioned that Maszlee may need the right strategies to create his own brand, without the benefit of a political heavyweight as mentor.

Maszlee, 46, a former education minister, won the Simpang Renggam seat from Gerakan by a 3,475 majority in the 2018 general election.

During his tenure as a minister, Maszlee was both praised and criticised for his efforts. Among the changes he made was to allow primary students to wear black shoes to school. He also pushed for allowing university students to take part in political activities.

However, Awang Azman feels that Maszlee, as an independent candidate, is likely to face an uphill battle against rival Umno armed with a strong machinery for the seat.

“Being an independent candidate, he may not have any allocation and is likely to have financial challenges,” he added.

Retired Universiti Teknologi Mara political analyst Azmi Hassan feels that Maszlee may have taken the decision after contemplating Pejuang’s future. “The party’s position is still in limbo as it awaits approval,” he said.

Furthermore, he said there is a perception that political rivals have used Mahathir loyalists to hit back at the 95-year-old veteran.

For instance, Mahathir’s son Mukhriz faces a political storm for using his father’s name to further his political ambition.

Azmi said that Maszlee would soon find out the down side of being an independent MP. He said MPs need to understand that they still need a political party to hang on as a way to survive financially.

“If Maszlee wants to survive, he needs the backing of a political party; if not, it will be harder for him,” Azmi said.

Syed Saddiq, who left PPBM earlier this year, has moved to set up his own political party, Muda, which is awaiting registration.


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