Three election losses, but Lembah Pantai Umno won’t make way for Zafrul in GE15

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Umno grassroots in the Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency are adamant that the seat belongs to the party in the next general election.

No other party in Perikatan Nasional can have a go at it, as it was traditionally an Umno seat until PKR wrested it in 2008, Umno members there said in response to talk that Bersatu will field senator Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, the finance minister, there.

Umno still has an advantage in the seat, located in Kuala Lumpur, despite losing it to PKR in the last three elections, said division chief Ramlan Askolani.

“Our advantage is that we have more strength and a grassroots machinery, compared to Bersatu or PAS.

Kamal Ariffin/TMI

“Bersatu has no more than 10 branches in Lembah Pantai, compared to Umno, which has five times that number,” Ramlan told The Malaysian Insight at the sidelines of the division’s annual meeting over the weekend.

He said because of Bersatu’s weakness, its activists in Lembah Pantai are trying to join the Umno division.

“Even though Umno lost the last three elections here, it was because of national issues being played up, and the truth is voters miss Umno’s services,” he added.

Barisan Nasional has performed poorly in the urban and mixed-ethnicity seats in Kuala Lumpur, claiming only Lembah Pantai, Setiawangsa, Titiwangsa and Putrajaya out of the 12 parliamentary seats in the federal territory before 2008.

It lost Lembah Pantai that year, and Setiawangsa and Titiwangsa in 2018.

The remaining seats in the federal territory are opposition strongholds under DAP. After 2018, BN only holds the Putrajaya seat.

Since the third quarter of last year, Tengku Zafrul, who was made senator and finance minister after PN became the government in March, has been visiting and holding events in the Lembah Pantai constituency, whose current MP is PKR’s Fahmi Fadzil.

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The former CIMB banker denies such ambitions in an interview with Bernama in November, saying he wants to focus on the economy.

The rumours come amid preparations for seat negotiations between parties in the PN government, with Umno accusing Bersatu of wanting to contest in seats it never won as well as in seats “gained” through the defections of BN winners who later switched parties.

Umno sees this as Bersatu leeching off its resources.

Ramlan said Umno still had a strong claim to the seat as despite losing in GE14, it placed second in a three-cornered fight with PKR and PAS in GE14, with a margin of more than 5,000 votes.

Bersatu, which was then with Pakatan Harapan, did not contest as the then opposition coalition fielded Fahmi.

Lembah Pantai had 63% Malay voters in 2018, and on this basis, Umno has a good chance of regaining the seat with the cooperation of Bersatu and PAS, said Ramlan.

“If the Malays stay united, and with Bersatu and PAS’ support (not to field their own candidates), I believe most Malays will vote for Umno.”

In line with the prevailing sentiment in Umno against Bersatu, grassroots members in Lembah Pantai won’t campaign for their ally in the PN government.

Ariffin Abu Nawas, a member of the Kg Pasir Lama Umno branch in Jalan Klang Lama, said it is absurd to expect the grassroots to work for a Bersatu candidate in Lembah Pantai.

Umno won’t accept a Bersatu candidate because the party will not be able to compete with their machinery there.

“What kind of election work do you want to do? Umno will not accept if they (Bersatu) want to name a candidate here and use our machinery. The grassroots will not accept it,” said the 60-year-old.

Another Umno Youth member said younger party members share the sentiment.

“Because it is an Umno constituency, we don’t agree to just handing it over to Bersatu like that,” he said without wanting to be named. – TMI