PKR strikes first in Perak, not Umno

“This is Pak Lah’s legacy but the sad thing is it shows some don’t trust Najib to solve the party’s problems,” an Umno warlord told The Malaysian Insider today.

The Malaysian Insider

For months, Umno politicians have been working hard behind the scenes to bring down the Pakatan Rakyat  government in Perak, even bandying about the last Merdeka celebrations as their deadline to regain the state government.

But on the eve of the year of the Ox and just months from Datuk Seri Najib Razak taking over Umno, the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) led by opposition icon Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has struck the first blow against the dominant Malay party still reeling from its dismal performance in the March 8 general elections and the last two by-elections.

Bota state assemblyman Datuk Nasarudin Hashim, Anwar’s campus mate in University Malaya, crossed over today and is seen as the herald for more defections from Umno lawmakers disgruntled with the party’s national leadership. His decision was not entirely a surprise as there has been speculation since last month that he would jump ship if he lost the Umno division elections.

The former Parit MP did lose by 19 votes in his bid to unseat the Umno Parit division chief Datuk Mohamed Zaim Abu Hasan, who is also Belanja state assemblyman within the Parit parliamentary constituency. He had earlier lost the Felcra chairmanship when he was moved to the Bota state seat in the 2008 general elections.

Nasarudin’s defection strengthens the Pakatan Rakyat majority to four in the 59-seat state assembly and while it does not change the equation at the federal or state level, it remains a body blow to Umno and Barisan Nasional.

The move by the former Perak Tengah district officer is seen as an indictment against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s weak leadership and distrust for successor Najib.

“This is Pak Lah’s legacy but the sad thing is it shows some don’t trust Najib to solve the party’s problems,” an Umno warlord told The Malaysian Insider today.

Critics say Umno is in denial about its image as a racist and corrupt party riven with factional interests. Former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has been campaigning against his successor Abdullah, has said the party is corrupt and will lose power unless it reforms itself.

Najib, who has already won the party presidency, has been cautious and coy about his reform plans for the party but has said the party needs to change and remain relevant to the citizens’ aspirations.

But politicking within the party in the wake of Abdullah’s hastened departure has left many leaders by the wayside flirting with the idea of joining Anwar, who was sacked from the party 11 years ago. “For most of them, Anwar shows better leadership,” an Umno veteran said.

That perception adds further to Najib’s burden to get Umno to restructure its party, policies and retain talent and leaders, let alone regain the people’s trust after a string of electoral defeats and rising allegations of corruption in the party’s elections.

Nasarudin’s resignation today could be the start of a slow train wreck for Najib.

Or a quick one.