Umno risks further electoral loss by snubbing Perkasa, says Dr M

By Yow Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider 

SERI KEMBANGAN, Sept 12 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned today that Umno could lose further support in the next general election and risk deepening party schisms if it snubs Perkasa.

“They (Umno) are so very divided that to distance themselves away from Perkasa will divide themselves even more,” the former prime minister said at his Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house here.

Dr Mahathir said Umno should not distance itself from Perkasa as the party could ill-afford to alienate even a single vote, given its less than stellar showing in the Election 2008.

“Last election, the margins were very small. If you lose some support, you might even lose the election.

“Umno… is not very strong. We cannot reject anyone because even if we lose 100 or 200 people, we might lose in certain constituencies,” he said, adding that in the last election many Umno members voted for PAS.

He added that Umno should instead be getting close to as many groups as possible rather than quarrel with them, and said it was a “prime principle” to pick a fight with only one and not everybody.

Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali yesterday issued a thinly veiled threat to Umno, saying he might give “guidance” the pressure groups’s 300,000 members — 80 per cent of whom are said to be Umno members — on how to vote in the next election.

Firing a shot across Umno’s bow, Ibrahim said membership numbers meant nothing as only a select hardcore would vote for the party every time.

He claimed the rest could be “overrid[den]” by issues and persuaded to vote for other parties, and hinted that the perceived erosion of Malay rights was one such issue.

“Don’t think that Umno members will vote for Umno… You cannot take things for granted, so long as they’re your members, they’ll support you. No, not necessary,” the Pasir Mas MP cautioned.

The maverick independent MP’s warning came just a day after Umno’s top leaders, who have kept silent so far on the topic of Perkasa, cautiously agreed that supporting the controversial group’s views could prove detrimental to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) struggle.

Leading the fray was Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who told The Malaysian Insider that it was “about time” that Umno made a strong stand against Ibrahim and his Malay rights group.

Nazri, who has been the most vocal of all Umno leaders on the topic of Perkasa, even went a step further to assert that all of Perkasa’s members from Umno and its patron, Dr Mahathir, were political “has-beens”.

Also joining in was Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who told his BN component party counterparts that Umno will not back Perkasa or Ibrahim in the next general election as such a move will only erode non-Malay support for the ruling coalition.

However, opposition leaders, including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, were sceptical of Umno’s attempts to distance itself from Perkasa, pointing out that it was Umno that built up the Malay rights group to what it is.

Dr Mahathir reiterated his claim that Perkasa existed only because the Malay grassroots felt that Umno could no longer look after their interests, pointing out that the vacuum left by a weak Umno will only spur other groups to “take their place”.