At Umno AGM, Zahid tells delegates he rejected all offers to ‘buy’ party

Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi waves at reporters at the Putra World Trade Centre March 28, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi waves at reporters at the Putra World Trade Centre March 28, 2021. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told delegates at the party’s annual general assembly here today that there are parties attempting to “bribe” its leaders for support, but said he had rejected all such “offers”.

The Umno president has been linked to rumours about a possible cooperation with Opposition parties after it broke ranks with Perikatan Nasional, the ruling coalition led by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

The fallout has fuelled allegations that Bersatu is trying to woo defections by Umno MPs by offering money or positions.

“They tried to buy us out. However, as your president, I declined each and every offer to dissolve Umno,” Ahmad Zahid said in his policy speech.

“Umno will not change its masters. Iits masters are the members and the people. And it’s not for sale either. We will never crumble under pressure,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid did not explain who “they” referred to.

Umno recently withdrew its support for the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition amid worsening tension with its splinter Bersatu despite the initial agreement to see out their cooperation at least until the 15th general election, as the two tussle for political dominance.

The move would have effectively collapsed the PN government led Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and pressured the Bersatu president to call for elections, but was circumvented by the nationwide Emergency proclamation just before Umno declared to pull out. The Emergency is set to last until August 1.

Umno is expected to formalise the decision to sever ties with Bersatu at today’s annual general assembly later this evening, and contest against its current ally in the 15th general election. Anticipation is high that elections will be called this year, after the Emergency is lifted.

Ahmad Zahid told Umno delegates today that the party has always sought for elections after the fall of Pakatan Harapan, but the supreme council decided against it because of the Covid-19 pandemic although on the condition that polls must be held immediately once the outbreak stabilises.

“We wanted Parliament to be dissolved and return the mandate to the people via a fresh poll.

“However, since the pandemic was fast escalating internationally and Malaysia was of no exception, we agreed to give the premier post to a person whose party holds the least.

“We also made clear of our conditions that, should the pandemic subsides, the Parliament must be dissolved by January 2021 and a general election takes due course during the first quarter of this year,” he said.

The 15th general election is not due until May 2023 but Muhyiddin had hinted at the possibility of calling for polls much earlier if the pandemic “is under control.”

Ahmad Zahid declared today that Umno will contest under the Barisan Nasional banner, raising questions if the cooperation with PAS remains.

Umno and PAS agreed to form an electoral pact dubbed Muafakat Nasional in the aftermath of its defeat at the 14th general elections, but the latter’s refusal to leave PN have rocked relations between the two parties, fueling some factions to shun Muafakat even.

Ahmad Zahid said Umno is open to talks with any party but only after the polls.

Analysts predicted that Umno and PAS could regain power on the back of conservative Malay support alone but only if the two parties are aligned.

Malay support swung back into the nationalists’ fold to protest what they felt were overt liberal policies by the then PH a government.

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