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COMMENTARY, March 25 — It’s back to basics for the largest Malay political party in the country as it tries to get back to being the dominant party it once was.
All eyes will be on Umno’s annual general assembly (AGM) this weekend with observers expecting some kind of “explosion” which will add to the already noisy political landscape.
However, Malaysians expecting a full-on drama may be in for a disappointment as the party leadership has decided to go back to basics: listen to the grassroots and stay united... even as the party is being torn from within and without.
Basically, Umno is not expected to make any new decisions until Parliament is dissolved, signalling the next general election.
The speakers have already been picked and they comprise the liaison chairmen of state Umno who are expected to speak their minds about the party leadership (as state liaison chairmen are also supreme council members).
They are not expected to deviate from what has been decided by the leadership as the party’s agenda is already set — stay and support Perikatan National (PN) government until Parliament is dissolved and only cross the next bridge when the party comes to it.
The party leadership seems to want the AGM to be a rallying point for party members and leaders as unity seems to have been forgotten these days.
Some leaders want the party to partner with Bersatu and others want the party to go its separate way.
By picking the chairmen to speak in the debate of the presidential speech on Sunday, the leadership hopes to avoid any clash of minds as objectives have been set on how to deal with the situation as soon as Parliament is dissolved.
From within, Umno is split into several factions or the latest term cluster, named after the groups of Covid-19 infections.
In short, the party leadership has had enough of problems in its effort to unite the party and move forward and this weekend’s AGM is the grand finale of that.
BN and Umno is set to do or die in the coming general election. This is because it now has an opponent that may replace it if it does not emerge as a force like it was before the 2018 general election.
For a start, the party leadership has decided to support the present PN government where Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is dominant despite it being the smallest Malay-based party among the three Malay-based parties in the government.
The other is PAS, the second largest Malay-based party with a large membership and following, but with a limited number of seats. Yet, it is significant as it does not only add the numbers, it also has tentacles that reach into every Malay household.
The support that Barisan Nasional (BN), with Umno as its backbone, gives it is until Parliament is dissolved and then it has yet to decide what to do — to partner Bersatu or go their separate ways.
The decision on this will be made as soon as Parliament is dissolved depending on the situation at that time, which creates problems for Bersatu and PAS is caught in between.
And Umno will play this guessing game until the date of the next general election is set and announced — after all even now both Umno and Bersatu are still taking a hard stand on the distribution of seats.
And meanwhile, the Umno AGM will just be a meeting of the minds of party grassroots for not just the party leadership to hear but more importantly for Bersatu and PAS to judge and draw a conclusion.