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The wedge between 2 titans

Umno grassroots leaders feel they can do better independently without pandering to Bersatu, say analysts

07 Jan 2021 / 10:36 H.

PETALING JAYA: The unhappiness of Umno grassroots leaders with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is the main reason for the growing rift between the two parties.

Political analysts are of the view that a call by 189 Umno division leaders to cut ties with Bersatu has left the Umno supreme council with very little room to manoeuvre.

Prof Dr Jeniri Amir, who is senior fellow at the Malaysian Council of Professors, said the grassroots leaders feel that their party has been bullied by Bersatu.

He said they feel that instead of appointing senior ministers, an Umno leader should have been appointed deputy prime minister.

“Umno grassroots leaders do not want their party to play second fiddle to Bersatu.

“They are of the opinion if a snap election is called, they can do better than they did in the 14th general election.

“Power means everything to these people, especially those in the ‘court cluster’,” he said, adding that if Umno was in power, it could do whatever it wanted or needed.

Jeniri said he was of the view that now is not the time to hold a general election, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, as the high cost of holding an election will also have an impact on the country as the economy was just recovering.

Power is everything to Umno leaders and they want to determine their own future, he added.

“We are now in a time of political uncertainty, and Umno feels the general election will give them a chance to come back to power, no matter how small the chance is.”

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia geostrategist Prof Dr Azmi Hassan said the decision of the grassroots leaders has forced the hand of the party’s top leadership.

He said they want Umno to cut ties with Bersatu and it is very difficult for the supreme council to go against this.

“This is not the right time for a snap election due to the Covid-19 pandemic but there are Umno leaders who still want to go ahead with snap polls.

“Even with snap polls, a clear winner might not emerge as Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan are in disarray.”

Azmi said grassroots leaders are pushing to cut ties with Bersatu because they feel a deep sense of betrayal and resentment towards the party.

He said although the Umno leadership has a different take on its ties with Bersatu, they have to listen to the division leaders.

Azmi added that the grassroots leaders have made their decision and they want the party leadership to follow through.

On Sunday, Umno grassroots division leaders rejected any sort of cooperation with Bersatu ahead of GE15.

In meetings held nationwide, 189 out of 191 Umno divisions brought up the motion.

Prof Dr Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said Umno grassroots leaders feel Umno can lead Barisan Nasional to form a new government if snap polls are called.

He pointed out that because of the slim parliamentary majority, such issues will continually crop up.

“One major problem today is that the PN government lacks a proper strategy on how to deal with issues that are cropping up and Umno grassroots leaders are unhappy with this.”

Barjoyai said there is also the possibility that the King may not allow snap polls but instead declare an emergency.

He said this is because the country is going through very difficult times and has to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that if there is an emergency, everyone loses.

“It is important for the government to concentrate on fighting the pandemic and politicking should be secondary.”

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