Analysts: Umno's grassroots still wary over cooperation with Pakatan, need time for full acceptance

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — Umno's grassroots are still tentative about its current political alliance with Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the unity government as some senior leaders have differed with the party leadership on the issue.

Assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia Syaza Syukri estimated that a third of Umno members are still sceptical about the party partnering with PH in governing the country.

She said that after decades of painting DAP, which is a component party in PH, as the bogeyman, it would take more than just a few months to erase the vilification.

"No, I do not think that most Umno members have accepted being allies with Pakatan, much less as its sidekick. We may not know the exact number but our estimate is that at least a third of the delegates are not happy," she told Malay Mail.

Syaza also said that Umno leadership accepted the fact that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's PH gave them a lifeline after their party's dismal performance in the 15th general election (GE15).

"DAP is considered as an ally to the top leadership, definitely. They realise that Pakatan and DAP had given Umno a lifeline," she added.

Echoing this, Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow, Azmi Hassan said some Umno members are still recovering from the shock of PH leaders appearing on their turf during the Seri Pacific Hotel meeting last November.

He said that acceptance among Umno members is patchy even when their leaders are currently holding top offices in the government.

"They are still not ready, not only about working with DAP but even being together with DAP by being together with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in forming the unity government.

"I don't think that is a notion that is widely accepted yet," he said.

He added that there is still hesitation among grassroots members even after Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan peculiar praise in the latter's speech during the party general assembly about DAP.

"This is because DAP has been negatively stigmatised by Umno members, even working with Datuk Seri Anwar has been stigmatised," he added.

Commenting on Umno's attempt to "whitewash" DAP in the recent general assembly, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political analyst Kartini Aboo Talib said that it has to go both ways for the benefit of the current unity government.

She said that DAP adopting Umno as an ally was a good transaction as it would strengthen its position among the Malay voters.

"The only thing is that DAP is smart enough to know is that the Chinese are still less than 25 per cent of the overall population and have to accept power-sharing and see Umno as a strategic partner to strengthen the party's power and ensure the Chinese business and ownership will sustain and secure. This is just good business. Nothing more," she said.

As for Umno delegates who voted through the motion to leave the top two posts uncontested, Kartini said that the party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's move to work with PH will only be solidified.

"Not contesting the two top positions in Umno means the president's decision to be with PH is solid," she said.

The outcome of GE15 saw no political sides manage to garner 112 seats to have the simple majority and form the federal government.

After five days of political elites going back and forth from Istana Negara to hotels around Kuala Lumpur, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong summoned Anwar to have an audience at the palace to swear in as the 10th prime minister of Malaysia leading a unity government consisting of PH, Barisan Nasional (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan), Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM).

Earlier this month, Umno approved a motion to leave the top two highest offices to go uncontested in its general assembly, leading to mixed reactions within the party.

Previously, Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said that the party’s internal polls must be conducted before May 19.