KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa has expressed confidence that his party will spring an upset in the Semenyih state seat by-election following its convincing triumph in the Cameron Highlands poll.
He claimed Umno’s victory against incumbent Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) will deliver the fatal blow and force a power transition that would see PKR take over as de facto leader of Pakatan Harapan (PH), a statement likely alluding to the purported rift between the two parties.
“Even with a reduced majority, let alone losing to a fettered Umno-Barisan Nasional will be the deathblow for PPBM,” he wrote on Facebook last night.
“It would likely become the catalyst to a transition of power to DSAI/DSAA,” he added, referring to abbreviations used for PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
Rumours that PPBM leaders want Anwar blocked from becoming prime minister had set alight a proxy war between his camp and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who first promised to hand over the post in two years but later hinted that he could stay on longer.
Annuar’s claim about the power transition is likely a textbook psywar strategy to tap the uncertainties surrounding the matter.
In his Facebook posting, the Umno leader claimed PH is currently led by a PPBM-DAP alliance, an allegation seemingly aimed at both unnerving other members of the coalition.
The allegation that PPBM and DAP were close allies was also aimed at tapping Malay distrust of the minority-led party, an effective strategy in Cameron Highlands.
Annuar said the Semenyih by-election will be a platform for Malay voters to voice their opposition to a PPBM-DAP led government.
“The Semenyih by-election will carry a strong message..that it is a referendum on the performance of the conduct and performance of the government, especially of Bersatu/PPBM,” he said.
“Semenyih is an opportunity for a referendum to prove the rakyat is disappointed..to show if the party they trust to uphold Islam and the Malays are Umno-PAS or PPBM-DAP.”
Buoyed by increased Malay support in Cameron Highlands, Annuar said the by-election marked the turning point for a party that was almost crippled by its internal dissension.
Now, he added, Umno is reinvigorated.
“Now not only Umno and BN are being reinvented, but the entire Opposition Coalition will be better and fresher with more members like PAS, especially, and other NGOs,” he said.
On the opposite end, PH leaders said they are prepared to face the Umno-PAS alliance in Semenyih knowing fully that the Opposition would play up racial-religious sentiments to win votes. They said they have their own strategy to keep the seat come March 2.
The Semenyih by-election was called following the death of assemblyman Bakhtiar Mohd Nor, 57, of PPBM, of a heart attack on January 11.
Close to two-thirds of the 50,000 over voters there are Malays, followed by Chinese at 17 per cent and Indians 14 per cent.
* A previous version of this story contained an error stating Annuar Musa as the Umno acting president which has since been corrected.