Umno – from king to kingmaker?

KTemoc Konsiders

For decades, Umno has been the undisputed hegemon in Malaysian politics. When its BN allies began to falter in 2008, the power dynamics in the ruling coalition further shifted to Umno, which could govern like a king.

Umno grew comfortable with the subservience it enjoyed and began to expect the same from within the party.

When reports from across the globe emerged that billions of ringgit had been looted from state-owned fund 1MDB under then Umno president Najib Abdul Razak’s stewardship, there were only murmurs of protests from within that were quickly snuffed out.

Umno’s hegemony collapsed in the 2018 general election when the party underestimated the cracks from within.

Despite BN’s 61-year hold on power coming to an abrupt end, Umno as a party was still the most influential. It won 54 seats and 21 percent of the popular vote, the highest for any single party.

Bersatu, comprising purged Umno rebels, only made a dent against Umno. Bersatu won 13 seats but managed to cobble together a coalition with other opposition parties to form the new government.

But it was not the end. Umno was confident that if it joined forces with PAS under Muafakat Nasional, they could easily return to power in the next general election due in 2023.

This became increasingly apparent as a series of missteps by the Pakatan Harapan government, despite its reform efforts, saw its popularity plummet particularly among Malay voters who make up the base for Umno and PAS.

Those plans were suddenly thrown into disarray when both Umno and PAS were unexpectedly offered a taste of power much earlier than they had anticipated.

Bersatu, under its president Muhyiddin Yassin, was cognisant of what Umno and PAS were planning.