Umno is undermining Muhyiddin Yassin’s efforts to create a stable ruling coalition by snubbing the prime minister’s offer to register formally the Perikatan Nasional alliance, said political analysts.
Saying it will instead focus on its current pact with PAS called Muafakat Nasional, Umno is also telling Muhyiddin that it wants to call the shots, they told The Malaysian Insight.
This is in keeping with Umno’s overall goal to return to its former status as the dominant political power in the federal government – a position it has held since Merdeka but lost in the 14th general election.
Instead of joining PN, where it feels it cannot dominate, Umno wants Muhyiddin and his party, Bersatu, to join MN.
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday the party won’t be a part of PN despite forming a government with the coalition. Instead, Zahid said, the party will work to strengthen MN.
The decision comes after its former president, Najib Razak, was sentenced to 12 years’ jail and fined RM210 million for criminal breach of trust, money-laundering and abuse of power in relation to SRC International.
Several political scientists, however, said Muhyiddin can still gain the upper hand over Umno when it comes to appealing to the Malay electorate.
Compared with Umno, with its raft of leaders facing corruption cases in court, Muhyiddin can position himself and his party, Bersatu, as the ones committed to the rule of law and good governance.
The analysts said Zahid and Umno did not expect such a tough sentence for Najib after agreeing to support Muhyiddin’s administration that was formed in late February.
Universiti Malaya’s Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Ahmad Zahid is also worried about his own court cases after he saw Najib’s verdict.
“He announced Umno has quit PN but still supports the federal and state governments for now. This gives a message to Muhyiddin to do something, if not Umno will take drastic measures.
“If they are forced to pull out support, Muhyiddin will not have a choice but to dissolve Parliament,” Awang Azman told The Malaysian Insight.
Zahid is facing 47 charges of money-laundering amounting linked to tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.
The cases against Zahid, Najib and about five other Umno MPs came after Pakatan Harapan swept into power in 2018.
Muhyiddin, who was also part of PH, dumped the coalition and brought along about 30 MPs to form a new government together with Umno, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak in late February.
Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research executive director Ibrahim Suffian said Zahid’s statement yesterday makes the effort to register PN as an official coalition redundant.
“What’s the point of registering PN if no one wants to join? It is like having a party and those you invited don’t show up.
“This increases the uncertainty of stability of the coalition. It also means that their cooperation is only up to the elections, whenever they’re called,” he said.
Ibrahim said this will also weaken Muhyiddin’s position as prime minister.
“Perhaps this weakens Muhyiddin’s position in seat negotiations and going into elections without a coalition.”
Boost for Muhyiddin
Without any interest from Umno to join PN, Muhyiddin and Bersatu would then be left with little choice but to join MN or contest on their own in the 15th general election.
Awang Azman said Umno and PAS will purposely stymie Bersatu’s efforts to join MN as they don’t want to share their seats.
“Muhyiddin tried to make PN a bigger entity over Muafakat Nasional but failed. Umno and PAS will definitely want to delay Bersatu joining Muafakat.
“The fact of the matter is they will not and do not want to share seats with Bersatu.”
Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said even if Muhyiddin agrees to join MN, Umno and PAS will make things difficult for Bersatu.
“If they want to join, Bersatu needs to follow Umno and PAS’ conditions. They must agree to certain things. Umno still wants to be dominant in any form,” he said.
Political analyst Wong Chin Huat also said Umno’s cooperation will only last till the next polls.
“Umno is not going to bring down the government but there will be no cooperation in the next elections,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
However, if Muhyiddin overcomes this hurdle, it will strengthen his position as one who did not compromise on his party’s integrity.
“The reason Bersatu was formed was the same as Umno, to uphold Malay nationalism and to be clean.”
The more Umno tries to pressure Muhyiddin over the court cases, the more it will bolster the prime minister’s image.
“Despite forming a government with Umno, Muhyiddin did not compromise. The government did not get involved in the judiciary,” Wong said.
The biggest loser in this crisis will be International Trade and Industries Minister Azmin Ali as he has no party, Awang Azman said.
“Azmin’s gang is trapped now. Azmin is going nowhere. This is the end of their political career. They are stuck,” he added.
Azmin, the former PKR deputy president, left the party, taking along 10 PKR lawmakers to join Muhyiddin. – TMI