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COMMENTARY, April 7 — As the general election looms on the horizon, the main problem in the plan for Malay unity, supremacy and dominance lies in Umno leadership, specifically party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and its partner PAS, which form the backbone of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, are waiting for common sense to prevail in Umno so that they can unite and ensure Malay power retains Putrajaya without any opposition.
The Umno leadership problem stands in the way of not only compromise, but also any agreement, or so claim those who have sat at the general election seat negotiating table.
Umno is now split to such an extent that party grassroots quietly whisper that such factionalism can only disappear if Zahid steps down.
Should he exit stage left, it would allow the party to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bersatu and PAS, with the goal of continuing to lead the country together.
The grassroots acknowledge that the three Malay parties have what it takes to emerge victorious in the next general election if only they could find a way to work together.
Zahid, meanwhile, is being slammed for losing control of Umno as he goes on the defensive, with his claims that the party has been “bullied and used” by Bersatu largely seen as a smokescreen for his personal problems.
Umno agreed to support the Bersatu-led government in March last year to retain the Malay-dominant government and will part ways when Parliament is dissolved.
Bersatu, on the other hand, due to its inability to build solid bases around the country, may rely on Umno and PAS as a crutch if the general election is called once the Emergency is over.
The four-year-old Malay-based party doesn’t have what it takes to wage a political war on the scale of a general election because it has yet to penetrate the Malay heartlands that are the domains of Umno and PAS.
Bersatu, however, has a grand plan to unite the country’s multi-racial parties — minus DAP and PKR — under its umbrella.
But the immediate hurdle that it faces now is getting its PN partners to sit at the same negotiating table, with Zahid.
As it stands, Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has called for Zahid’s resignation, which he said would allow the party to move forward, going so far as to openly propose that deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan take over.
Others might follow suit, such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, who have pushed for the party election to be held as soon as possible and ahead of any general election.
It is common knowledge that both men are among many more in Umno who want a new face in the party’s top job so that it can enter the general election without any baggage.
Mohamad, who is more popularly known as Tok Mat, is considered a “soothing” presence by the Bersatu and PAS leaders who are part of the same seat negotiating team, as well as the Umno grassroots.
Many want to see Umno back to its old self, or at least armed with the strength to call the shots, because it has leaders who are capable and experienced.
Under Zahid’s leadership, however, these characteristics appear either missing or non-existent.
Hence, the clarion call for Zahid to step down and make way for more competent and charismatic personalities, without any baggage, grows louder by the day.