Instruction for all divisions and branches to strengthen ties with PAS.
Umno has no plans to help Perikatan Nasional become a formal coalition as its sole focus is on firming up its Muafakat Nasional pact with PAS, said sources in the Malay nationalist party.
Grassroots leaders have been instructed to strengthen their ties with PAS as both parties work out how to register their alliance with the Registrar of Societies.
Despite its leaders being in the PN government and backing Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, this support is only until the 15th general election, where Umno plans to work only with PAS, and its Barisan Nasional partners MCA and MIC.
Meanwhile, Bersatu officials in Muhyiddin’s camp are hopeful that Umno will have a change of heart as the country gets closer to GE15, scheduled for 2023.
The Umno sources are not ruling out the possibility, but said it is remote.
Morale in the party is high, and it would be difficult to convince grassroots leaders and ordinary members to work with people they still consider “traitors to Umno”.
“The ones who are desperate are the people in Bersatu. Not Umno. They need us rather than the other way around,” said a Selangor Umno official, who did not want to be named.
“We and our allies in BN and PAS are confident of contesting and winning GE15 without any help from Bersatu. We don’t need them, so why should we give up our seats to them?”
The issue of Bersatu’s survival again cropped up when the party lost another menteri besar’s post after Mukhriz Mahathir was deposed by a majority of Kedah assemblymen.
Before that, Bersatu lost the Johor menteri besar’s post to Umno when the state government was taken over by PN.
PN was established after the collapse of the 21-month-old Pakatan Harapan administration, when Muhyiddin took Bersatu out of the pact. Bersatu went on to form the new ruling coalition with Umno, PAS, MCA, MIC, a clutch of Sabah and Sarawak parties, and 10 MPs from PKR.
Since joining PN, Umno has repeatedly made it clear that it will support Muhyiddin as prime minister only until GE15, leading to numerous questions on Bersatu’s future, as it appears that the party will not be part of any coalition in the next general election.
Bersatu was formed in 2016 by Umno renegades Muhyiddin and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who left the BN lynchpin in protest over then president Najib Razak’s scandals. Najib is now being prosecuted for allegedly swindling and laundering billions from 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
In 2017, Bersatu, comprising primarily former Umno members, joined PH, which contested against Umno and the larger BN in the following year’s elections.
Loyalists over traitors
A Johor-based Umno official, who also declined to be named, said the wounds inflicted by those who left for Bersatu are still a source of pain for members.
“We blame them for working with PH and causing Umno’s downfall in GE14. Umno knows that Bersatu has no grassroots support. This was shown in the Semenyih and Tg Piai by-elections, where Bersatu candidates lost.”
The official said the Supreme Council’s latest instruction is for all divisions and branches to strengthen ties with PAS.
The Islamist party and Umno, which were long-time foes, signed a formal pact last December called Muafakat Nasional, and are committed to working together come GE15.
“The focus now is strengthening Muafakat and working towards registering Muafakat with RoS,” said the Johor Umno official.
Despite the brush-off from Umno, a Bersatu official remains confident that the PN component will get the Malay party to cooperate ahead of the next elections.
“The general election is still far off. Anything can happen till then,” said the supreme council member.
“I think we will be able to find a formula, whereby we sacrifice seats to Umno, and in return, Umno and PAS support our candidates.”
Another Bersatu official said an option would be for the party to dissolve and its members rejoin Umno.
“If we try to negotiate with Umno and PAS, these two parties are bigger than us, and we would be a poor partner unable to make real demands. But if we rejoin Umno, maybe we would have greater bargaining power.”
One of the Umno sources, however, dismissed this idea.
“We can let these people back into Umno, but why should we let them contest again in their seats and under our banner when they’ve betrayed us before?
“We should first reward the people who stay loyal to us before working with these traitors.” – TMI