Umno, Bersatu, PAS bond cracking

(Sun Daily) – Umno is under siege. Its ties with partners Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and PAS are no longer as cosy as it was just months ago.

Perikatan Nasional (PN) began to be on shaky ground when Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced on July 30 that his party would not be part of the hastily cobbled-up coalition.

Instead, he said the party would focus on strengthening its ties with PAS under their Muafakat Nasional partnership.

PAS, on the other hand, is hedging its bets. It remains friendly with Umno but is keeping its options open by not alienating Bersatu.

As Associate Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi pointed out, a strong association with Bersatu can help PAS to strengthen its own support system if Umno decides to go its own way.

Umno emerged from the 2018 general election with seven parliamentary and 17 state seats in Sabah, but lost 16 state seats through crossovers by the end of that year, eight of which went to Bersatu. It also lost six parliamentary seats and Bersatu bagged five of them.

The rivalry continues though the two parties are on the same side of the political aisle now. In the recent Sabah polls, Umno claimed that Bersatu-friendly candidates were fielded against its candidates.

Umno candidates had to contend with defectors from its fold in six of the seats allocated to it. It was also challenged by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and STAR in six other seats.

But the worse was yet to come. Umno lost the chief ministership to Bersatu despite winning more seats – 14 against Bersatu’s 11.

Political analyst Wong Chin Huat said Umno’s share of seats in the state assembly also dropped from 28% (17 out of 60) in 2018 to 19% (14 out of 73) in 2020.

According to Wong, Bersatu did not face any internal challenges from its allies in Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), which comprises Bersatu, PBS and Barisan Nasional (BN), of which Umno is the dominant component and was the only party that contested.

“Another factor that led to the fallout between Umno and Bersatu is their similarities. Both parties are too alike to survive nationally in the long run,” he told theSun.

Just like Semangat ‘46 and PKR, Bersatu is an offshoot of Umno, formed by dissidents who had either been sacked or left the party.

Wong said that in a first-past-the-post electoral system, one would eventually be absorbed by the other unless there is a distinct division of territory.

Awang Azman noted that Umno grassroots members have urged the party leadership to stand up to Bersatu.

He noted that Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Hasan had expressed concern that a handful of its MPs would cross over to Bersatu if Umno pulls out of PN.

Under such circumstances, PKR has a better chance than Umno of landing the prime minister’s job after the next general election, Awang said, adding that PAS would choose the side that serves its interests, making it the kingmaker.