Return of expelled leaders risks factionalism within Umno, warns analyst

However, another analyst says the reintegration of expelled and suspended leaders could reinvigorate their loyal supporters.

(FMT) – A political analyst has warned Umno against welcoming back leaders and members expelled in the aftermath of the 15th general election (GE15), saying it may lead to factionalism within the party.

Ilham Centre’s Hisommudin Bakar said those who were ousted or suspended had been vocal critics of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“(Their return) will create factionalism unless they have repented and accept Zahid’s leadership,” he told FMT.

“There is also no guarantee that their return will bring back votes that have swayed towards Perikatan Nasional in (recent) elections.”

Given the growing number of young voters supporting PN, Hisomuddin said merely welcoming back former leaders will no longer suffice. Umno, he said, needs to find more innovative ways to connect with the younger demographic.

During the six state elections last year, it was reported that more than half of the 9.67 million eligible voters were aged 40 and below.

“So what they really need to do is leverage their position in the government to show strong leadership.

“They should ensure they are not overshadowed by Pakatan Harapan or even Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim,” he said.

Earlier, Umno Supreme Council member Jalaluddin Alias said the party is prepared to reintegrate leaders and members expelled after GE15 so long as they remain loyal and aligned with the party’s struggles.

Jalaluddin claimed some of the expelled members have shown a desire to return after seeing the party’s current state.

Meanwhile, Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said reintegrating former leaders could strengthen the party. These leaders have their own followers “within and outside Umno,” he said.

“It will create the perception that Umno is gaining strength through the addition of suspended and sacked members, and their followers. It will give confidence to Umno supporters,” he said.

Azmi also said the time was right for former leaders to rejoin the party, citing the stable leadership following last year’s party polls which saw Zahid and deputy president Mohammad Hasan retain their positions unchallenged.

“Previously, they were sacked or suspended because the top five leadership was very unstable due to internal bickering or competition. But right now, it seems stable enough to accommodate reintegration,” he added.

In January last year, several prominent Umno leaders, including Khairy Jamaluddin, Noh Omar and Isham Jalil were expelled from the party for disciplinary violations.

Others like former minister Hishammuddin Hussein and one-time information chief Shahril Hamdan were given lengthy suspensions.

All were seen as highly critical of Zahid’s leadership.