Analysts: United Umno, Bersatu can win big in GE15

(NST) – Political analysts believe that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and Umno can become a stronger force for Malay unity provided the two parties are united and able to resolve their long-standing issues.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s political observer Dr Ainul Adzellie Hasnul said Bersatu and Umno must immediately iron out their differences and come to an amicable solution so that it could be relayed, adopted and embraced by leaders, party members and supporters ahead of the next general election (GE15).

Ainul said he was still in the dark on whether the cooperation between the two would gain momentum and boost the chances of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) political bloc retaining the federal government.

“The two parties still have time to negotiate and reach an agreement for a win-win solution since Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin vowed that GE15 would only be called after the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

“If Bersatu and Umno, along with Pas, can work together and put aside their differences, I am sure PN will be able to win big in GE15,” said Ainul, who is a lecturer at USM’s Centre for Policy Research and International Studies.

The fate of the cooperation between the two parties, said Ainul, hinged on how their leaders could formulate a solution to issues related to seat allocation for GE15.

“They have to sit down and sort this out before the situation gets worse and blown out of proportion. Having said that, it will not be a walk in the park, and tempers will still flare between those who agree and disagree,” he said.

Universiti Malaya socio-political analyst Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi, on the other hand, doubted that Bersatu and Umno would be able to mend the rift between them and it might even go on until GE15 is called.

Apart from the fact that Bersatu is regarded as a splinter of Umno, Awang Azman said both parties targeted support from the same audience for their political survival.

Based on the present framework, he described the relationship between Bersatu and Umno as similar to the Malay proverb — berpatah arang berkerat rotan (there are irreconcilable differences).

“Umno will go all out to defend its traditional seats while Bersatu will push for more seats.

“It is unlikely Bersatu and Umno will give in and bow to each other’s demands.

“The game of politics is not like a family squabble, because in politics, families who argue can become estranged,” he said.

In the event that both parties were unable to come to an agreement over seat allocation, Awang Azman foresaw that GE15 would be a “free-for-all” in which there would be clashes in seats contested by the two parties.

“It would be a case of ‘let the best man win’. Subsequently, parties that win the higher number of seats will call the shots on the key position and direction of the new federal administration.”

Awang Azman also cautioned that the fallout between Bersatu and Umno, if unresolved, would provide an advantage to Pakatan Harapan (PH) to wrest back the federal government if it managed to work out its internal bickering.

Geopolitical expert Azmi Hassan opined that Bersatu and Umno should learn from the outcome of the 16th Sabah state polls, which saw Gabungan Rakyat Sabah winning the state election and subsequently forming the Sabah government.

“The result of the election demonstrates that only good will be the product if both parties work towards a common goal.

“Also, the fiasco surrounding the 2021 Budget which nearly failed at the policy stage demonstrates that if these two parties (Umno and Bersatu) are at loggerheads, both will lose out.

“It all now depends on whether the top leaders can put aside their differences.”

Azmi added that even without the political crisis that unfolded early in the year, Bersatu, Umno and Pas should have worked together since their objectives and segment of supporters run parallel.

In his policy speech at Bersatu’s 3rd Annual General Assembly on Saturday, Muhyiddin had announced that Bersatu, Umno and Pas have agreed to strengthen their cooperation to boost the Malay unity agenda.

Muhyiddin had also disclosed to Bersatu delegates that he had discussions with Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, in which both leaders agreed that there was still room to enhance ties between Bersatu and Umno.