Zahid’s return as Umno boss will likely lead to Bersatu exodus

Bagan Datuk MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 1, 2019. ― Picture by FIrdaus Latif
Bagan Datuk MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 1, 2019. ― Picture by FIrdaus Latif

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COMMENTARY, July 2 — Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is expected to gain new following after Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s announcement he would return as Umno president following a six-month garden leave.

Ostensibly a “safety net” for disgruntled Umno members after the devastating loss of Barisan Nasional in the 14th general election, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) party is not seen as a more viable option for those “fleeing” the uncertainty following Zahid’s return.

After all, Bersatu is not much different than Umno in its struggle for the Malay majority.

Despite its relative lack of experienced leaders, Umno members may prefer Bersatu to being under Zahid in a party that was just about to regain its own footing again prior to the Bagan Datuk MP’s return.

As for Bersatu, which is in no great shape itself as it gears up to face its first assemblies and elections at division level now and later the national level in September, it may now find Zahid’s return as a God-given blessing.

This comes as the party attempts to make its presence in PH felt, as it cannot forever depend on the gravitas of chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad alone.

Meanwhile, Zahid’s announcement, which ended the relatively more progressive Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan’s stint as acting chief, has seen received mixed reactions from Umno’s own party members and division leaders.

Some have welcomed his return, but many more are questioning the rationale behind the decision as Umno has been well on its way to charting a new direction for the party, along with a new cooperation with former rival PAS.

Zahid’s return may even be considered as unnecessary by some, with critics claiming that he had done absolutely nothing of note ever since he won the presidency by default last year after scandal-plagued Datuk Seri Najib Razak stepped down.

Umno and BN had even won three by-elections since, and Zahid’s return now is seen by some members as taking the easy way out to lead the party while it is on a high.

Some are also anxious that the Registrar of Societies will be looking for any excuse to de-register Umno, and having Zahid, who is currently facing 87 charges of corruption and abuse of power, will just expedite the matter.

If anything, Zahid’s return will not wash away an impending fracture in the party but instead further split the crack, as his own loyalists will likely not want Tok Mat’s faction to play any significant role in the party.

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