Umno to go it alone, but it’ll be tough

(The Sun Daily) – The battle lines have been drawn. It will be an Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) versus the rest. Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pix) said as much in his address at the party’s general assembly yesterday.

And going by what party veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said later, the party is even prepared to abandon current ally PAS in its effort to return to the top in the Malaysian political scene.

However, as a political analyst pointed out, the situation has changed significantly, and it will be a tough battle for the country’s biggest political entity.

Umno is full of bluster now, as it usually is during its general assembly, but when the general election comes closer, the party will mellow down because its leaders know they cannot win on their own, according to Prof Barjoyai Bardai of Unversiti Tun Abdul Razak.

At the Putra World Trade Centre yesterday, Ahmad Zahid made it clear that there will be no cooperation with fellow member of Perikatan Nasional (PN) Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He also ruled out working with PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim or the DAP.

But the strongest statement yet was to come from the Kelantan prince.

“We have nothing to do with PN. We will go against PN and if PAS is still there, we will fight PAS (as well),” Razaleigh told reporters after Ahmad Zahid’s address.

He even gave PAS an ultimatum. “If they (PAS) want to be with us through Muafakat Nasional, they should leave PN,” he said. Umno and PAS are currently in a separate alliance within PN.

Barjoyai expects the next elections to result in a stalemate. “No one party will be able to form the government,” he said.

“Umno knows that it will have to work with other parties to form the government. What it wants is to win the highest number of seats. This will enable it to dictate terms in negotiations to form the government,” he said.

There is bad blood too between Umno and its partners in PN. According to Barjoyai, the party now wants to go it alone also because it feels it was given a raw deal when it cooperated to form the PN government.

In the last general election in 2018, Umno contested 88 seats but won 54. Fifteen of its MP later defected to Bersatu, leaving it with only 39 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

Barjoyai pointed out that those under 40 will make up 44% of the electorate, and they will vote only for those whom they feel will work for them.

Within, Umno also has problems. “There are a number of factions, and the younger members feel that the only way to move forward is to get rid of tainted leaders,” Barjoyai said. “If these leaders are still around, the party may lose the votes of the younger generation.”

Senior fellow at the Malaysian Council of Professors Dr Jeniri Amir said Umno wants to control the important portfolios in the Cabinet.

“However, they cannot stand alone after the elections, so they will have to work with other parties to form the government,” he told theSun.

He also believes that Umno will do well in the next polls but only because “there is no other major party in the country”.

“It will be very fluid. No party will win a majority (to form the government on its own),” he added.

Jeniri said Umno has taken the decision because Bersatu does not have very strong grassroots support. “Bersatu has to depend on MPs who have defected from Umno and other Pakatan Harapan parties (to strengthen its position),” he pointed out.

On Razaleigh’s statement, he said working with PAS will help Umno win more seats. “Based on the voting pattern of the last general election, Umno can win another 30 seats,” he added.