Some Umno factions pushing for snap polls before second half of 2021

The Umno logo is pictured on a steel wall at PWTC in Kuala Lumpur October 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
The Umno logo is pictured on a steel wall at PWTC in Kuala Lumpur October 3, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Amid unresolved infighting in Umno, several factions have begun a campaign to force a premature 15th general election before August when the Emergency is set to expire.

Several party insiders confirmed that while one group remained keen on working with Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Parti Pribumi Malaysia (Bersatu), two others wanted the general election to be called as soon as possible to prevent the ruling coalition from consolidating its power.

One source said the factions are divided on how to treat PN as they did not feel the collaboration would see Umno regaining the power it had before the 2018 general election.

“With a faction now firmly supporting PN, other factions are banking on early elections when they could still control and have a say in matters regarding seats and candidates,” said one party leader on the condition of anonymity.

Malay Mail was informed that the faction aiming to see Umno restored to its former status belonged to president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

On February 26, Zahid wrote to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu to inform it that Umno will end their political cooperation when GE15 is called.

Another party insider also said Zahid will flesh out his plans during the assembly on March 27 and 28, which is being held as a replacement for last year’s edition that was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Zahid and Najib have influence over a number of division chiefs and grassroot members. The grassroot intention of the annual general meeting could influence other top leaders in returns,” said the party insider.

The annual Umno’s assembly was originally scheduled for early December last year but was postponed to January, before being delayed again due to the renewal of the movement control order.

No cooperation with Pakatan Harapan, Opposition

Another party insider said pushing for an early GE15 meant that there would be no cooperation with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the current Opposition.

“Umno has Barisan Nasional and Muafakat Nasional (MN). We prefer to strengthen the cooperation we already have as it is proven that the people would fare better,” said the insider.

Last month, Zahid publicly denied that the party had discussed cooperating with DAP, asserting that it was too early for Umno to announce a coalition with any party.

Rumours of a possible collaboration between the two rivals emerged after their Perak leaders appeared to cooperate in an ambush on Bersatu deputy president Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, costing him his role as the mentri besar of the state last year.

Earlier today, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng also denied that his party would cooperate with Umno in GE15, but appeared to leave the door open by saying collaboration was possible when done in the interest of Malaysians.

Separately, Malay Mail was also informed that talks between Umno and its MN ally, PAS, were ongoing.

PAS is also facing an internal faction crisis as there is a faction that was keen on maintaining cooperation with Umno and which could mount a challenge to the Islamic party’s president, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Abdul Hadi was instrumental in the creation of MN in 2019 as well as bringing PAS to be part of PN last year.

PN is politically unstable as it appeared to become a minority government in January after several Umno MPs withdrew their support for Muhyiddin.

Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Machang MP Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakob, have officially rescinded their support for PN on January, while Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah also announced last year that he would not support PN.

PN had been reduced to having just 109 MPs out of a total 222 in the Dewan Rakyat. [Two seats, Gerik and Batu Sapi, are currently vacant following their incumbent’s death.]

However, two PKR lawmakers — Julau MP Larry Sng and Tebrau MP Steven Choong — defected to PN late last month.

Federal Opposition Leader and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has since September last year claimed to have the majority support needed to take over as the prime minister.

All elections are suspended under the current Emergency but Muhyiddin has pledged to call a general election once the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

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