Ismail Sabri to unite a fragmented Umno


THE appointment of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the ninth prime minister (PM) may see Umno returning to power, but it does not resolve the issue of internal party division, analysts said.

Ismail Sabri created history not only because he was the first former Opposition leader appointed to the position, but also the first non-party president to be the country’s PM.

He is expected to unite Umno into the 15th General Election (GE15), as the party today vastly differs from before, having held power for six decades before losing majority in GE14.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun said Umno today is a fragmented party and not as united as when they ruled before.

“Now it is a fragmented Umno. Granted at the last minute they sort of come together to support Ismail Sabri, but he is more like a compromised figure for the party to put forward,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

“If they did not unite around someone, then they might not have the chance to get back to power again,” he added.

Umno members are also expected to work together to maintain power until GE15 and restore the party’s glorious days, Oh said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies deputy director Prof Dr Kartini Aboo Talib said there is a plausibility that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia may join Umno to prepare themselves for GE15 as both parties are like “estranged brothers”.

“They will work together, with one another, facing the same nemesis, the Opposition. Thus, power will be maintained at least till GE15,” she said.

Within the duration of one term after GE14 took place in 2018, the country had been administered by two governments, with a third one currently being formed, and led by three PMs from different parties.

When Perikatan Nasional (PN) administered the country under the premiership of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Oh said there were members within Umno that tried to topple the former PM, but there were also those who were against the idea.

“It is opposed to at the time when they were all united around Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and other previous Umno leaders,” he said.

Of the 38 lawmakers that Umno has, 23 of them are said to support Ismail Sabri, who is aligned with PN, while the remaining 15 are behind party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ismail Sabri rose to power after the King confirmed he had 114 MPs’ support that enabled him to form a government after Muhyiddin’s resignation. He was sworn-in as the ninth PM on Saturday.

Muhyiddin resigned on Aug 16 after 17 months in power as he lost majority support in Parliament, due to the withdrawal of 15 Umno lawmakers.

The eighth PM had said the coalition he leads, PN, had agreed to name Ismail Sabri as the new PM. However, Muhyiddin said the support given to Ismail Sabri is conditional, as long as the Cabinet members appointed consist of MPs with integrity, responsibility and free from any court cases.

Yesterday, the Pagoh MP said PN remains committed to support PN-led government policies to ensure the success of the nation’s recovery, as well as its long-term sustainability.

“The meeting also gathered feedback from our component parties regarding our preparations in GE15.”

University of Malaya political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said despite being in power, Umno has fewer seats in the Dewan Rakyat now.

The Barisan Nasional government led by Umno before GE14 had 133 seats, where Umno accounted for 88 of them, while the Opposition had 89.

However, Awang Azman said Umno only has 38 seats today after their defeat in 2018, mainly due to party hopping that took place among its members.

“Although this new Umno-led government managed to take over the administration from the PN after their defeat from Pakatan Harapan in 2018, it still does not have a strong position.”