Point of no return for Umno-Bersatu?

Collaboration with Bersatu will cause Umno to lose its dominance as they are sharing the same voters’ demographics, says political analyst

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by TMR FILE

UMNO’S decision to break away from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is mostly due to its quest to regain dominance in local politics.

However, analysts are of the view that Umno’s decision would trigger a strong reaction from Bersatu.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia senior lecturer (political study) Dr Mazlan Ali said Umno is worried that its influence will wane further if the Parliament is not dissolved soon.

He said the collaboration with Bersatu will cause the party to lose its dominance as they are sharing the same voters’ demographics.

“This pressure from Umno will be ongoing until Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin dissolves the Parliament. The pressure of this relationship has reached its peak,” Mazlan told The Malaysian Reserve.

Political scientist Prof Wong Chin Huat said it is almost impossible for Umno and its most threatening splinter — Bersatu — to agree on seat allocation. The disagreement will include who will be their post-15th General Election (GE15) PM candidate.

“The two parties are after the same electoral base (nationalist Malays) without geographical division of labour — like Umno and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu of Sarawak and, in the past, Usno of Sabah.

“It is a zero-sum game and Bersatu — from (former Bersatu chairman) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Muhyiddin — has not hidden its ambition to break up and annex Umno.

“On the other hand, Umno with more seats and stronger machinery on the ground sees no reason to concede Prime Ministership to Bersatu,” he said.

The Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development analyst predicted that GE15 — which may be held two years earlier before its term ends — will see three-cornered fights in West Malaysia between Umno (under the Barisan Nasional banner), Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Meanwhile, in Sabah, Umno would face PH and its alliance, Parti Warisan Sabah and PN.

“PAS will back Bersatu to prevent Umno’s dominance for now, but will eventually strike a deal with Umno; neutrality in exchange of Umno’s support or neutrality in most of its allocated constituencies,” Wong said.

Early this week, Umno Advisory Board chairman Tengku Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah had urged Umno Supreme Council to hold an emergency meeting to decide on severing ties with Bersatu before the Parliament convenes.

The PN government was said to have lost the majority in the Dewan Rakyat before the proclamation of emergency in January to allow the government to focus on curbing Covid-19.

Subsequently, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah said the Parliament may convene during the emergency period based on the advice of the PM.

University of Malaya political analyst Associate Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Umno would also have their own internal issues as the pro-Bersatu faction would pressure Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to step down from Umno presidency and further ensure the party could compromise with Bersatu.

In a letter dated Feb 26, Ahmad Zahid told Muhyiddin that Umno Supreme Council has agreed to cut ties with Bersatu and PN for GE15. Umno, however, is willing to support the PN government until the end of the term.