As polls loom, Umno repairs ties with Gerakan

By G. Manimaran, The Malaysian Insider

Umno has now moved to repair its fractured ties with Gerakan in what to appears to be a part of its preparation to face the looming 13th general election, said likely to be held early next year.

Despite his earlier criticisms of Gerakan, Penang Umno deputy chief Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman pledged his full commitment today to helping the party regain its power in Penang.

He told The Malaysian Insider that Umno would aid Gerakan in all the seats it would likely contest in the coming polls, particularly in areas with a large percentage of Muslim voters.

“Before this, it is true I did say that if Gerakan is no longer confident, then it should surrender the seats it contested in the previous polls to MCA, MIC or PPP. But it looks like Gerakan has showed a new commitment, have renewed their commitment.

“So, we in Umno will help Gerakan in all the seats that they will contest later,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Umno’s latest move is a clear strategic attempt by the ruling party to display a more unified front in Barisan Nasional in order to face Pakatan Rakyat, particularly in Penang, a former Gerakan-held state that is now said to be an opposition stronghold.

Umno had suffered a major fallout in 2008 with Gerakan in Penang when supporters of former Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail had reportedly stomped on pictures of Gerakan president Senator Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Two months back, Zainal Abidin himself had even advised Gerakan to give up in the 12 state seats it had contested in Elections 2008 to MCA and MIC in the next general election, if the party lacked confidence in its ability to recapture the state from PR.

The statement was a knee-jerk response to Penang Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan’s remarks when he conceded in an interview with The Malaysian Insider that BN would lose to PR again in the coming polls.

Today, however, Zainal Abidin said that Umno would once again rally behind Gerakan, pointing out that his change of heart was due to the party’s renewed confidence in its ability to recapture Penang.

In its annual general meeting over the weekend, Koh had resounded his party’s commitment towards remaining relevant in the country’s political landscape and to recapture all the seats it had lost in Elections 2008.

The former Penang chief minister who himself had failed in his contest in 2008, had declared that Gerakan was neither useless nor hopeless and later insisted that it would seek to stand again in all the seats it had contested previously.

“I feel this is a good step and we hope very much that we can see a return of the old Gerakan, a Gerakan that used to work very hard for the good of the people and to become leaders of the community.

“Finally, we see a more commited Gerakan and Umno welcomes this,” Zainal Abidin said.