PETALING JAYA, Sept 15 — Umno’s budding liaison with former rival PAS in a bid for relevance will be the very cause of the Malay nationalist party’s eventual collapse, a new study suggested based on the two’s cooperation in recent by-elections.
According to the analyses of the three polls in which PAS, Umno and the latter’s ally, MCA, all lost despite the nascent cooperation, the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (Cent-GPS) found that the once-mighty Umno has come to depend on PAS for basic survival.
The study was also released today, coincidentally as the top leadership of Umno journeyed to Terengganu to pay homage to PAS at the latter’s annual Muktamar.
“These by-elections are showing us that PAS voters seem quite independent to feel the need to vote for an Umno candidate.
“Whether the Umno leaders notice this or not, their handshake with PAS may in fact spell the end of their own party’s relevance in the political landscape as we know it,” the centre said.
Based on data obtained, it found the loose collaboration between the Opposition parties to be ineffectual in regaining lost support in Sungai Kandis and Balakong, and was minimally effective in Seri Setia.
PAS yielded Sungai Kandis to Umno, which reciprocated by supporting the Islamists in Seri Setia; MCA contested in Balakong, but barely left with its deposit.
“In other words, where an Umno candidate was fielded, the PAS and Umno partnership failed to collect an improved number of votes,” Cent-GPS said.
It said this was because PAS has ingrained a natural revulsion in its support base towards Umno, which has in turn been trying to court the Islamists for years.
Cent-GPS said Umno voters were more likely to back PAS and vice-versa, rendering the quid pro quo strongly in the Islamists favour.
“After all, PAS voters have been taught to vote against Umno for decades. In contrast, as we can see in Seri Setia compared to Sungai Kandis, Umno voters are more likely to jump onto the PAS bandwagon,” it said.
The risk for Umno now was that it will be tempted to join the religious auction with PAS in order to win over the Islamist party’s traditional core of supporters.
It pointed out that the Malay-Muslim narrative appeared to work for PAS but not Umno, presumably due to Umno’s now tarnished credibility and previous political baggage.
“The once moderate Malay party and the seemingly right-wing PAS will no longer have a clear ideological distinction between them,” it said.
Also tipping matters against Umno is the party’s remaining taint of corruption; its former president, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is on trial for various graft and abuse charges while hundreds of millions that the party claim are its funds have also been seized by authorities.
It said PAS was unlikely to want to officially bring the same taint of corruption into its fold.
“It is no longer the might it once was, it is on the edge, clinging on to a former rival Islamic-Malay party that can simply chose to let Umno die its sharp death,” it added.
Cent-GPS said the three by-elections have emphatically demonstrated the deep political divisions within the Malay community, which now has five parties all vying for its support.
It said the Opposition’s only chance of challenging the ruling coalition was to rally the Malay community under a single banner, fuelling views that the next general election will be decided by the outcome of this contest for the community’s affections.
To do this, Umno is left with little choice but to strike on with PAS despite the negative outcomes derived so far.
“However, continuing the partnership with PAS is a sureway contract for the end of Umno.”