A Pakatan-Umno alliance could bruise Bersatu in GE15 but analysts say kingmaker is still Sarawak

Opalyn Mok
·5-min read
Analysts told Malay Mail that Umno still has a strong electoral base due to its active election machinery throughout the country, particularly in the Malay heartland and rural areas.  — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Analysts told Malay Mail that Umno still has a strong electoral base due to its active election machinery throughout the country, particularly in the Malay heartland and rural areas. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Over the last few weeks, rumours of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Umno banding together for the next general election have picked up pace, and if it were to come to fruition, the alliance would be a formidable one, political analysts said.

When contacted, they told Malay Mail that Umno still has a strong electoral base due to its active election machinery throughout the country, particularly in the Malay heartland and rural areas.

“Umno has strong rural support, while PH has urban support. If they were to form an alliance, they will be able to garner support from both sides of the political divide,” said Universiti Malaysia socioeconomic analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

However, both parties would need strong grassroots support for the alliance to work, he added.

“The leaders may be able to agree to an alliance, but without grassroots support, the alliance may still fail,” he said.

The director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania Professor James Chin concurred with Awang, saying that an alliance between Umno and PKR in PH will boost their electoral prospects against Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

He also agreed that Umno, with its strong rural support, could contribute the much-needed numbers for PH to beat Bersatu at the polls.

Another analyst cautioned, however, that an alliance between PKR or PH with Umno could also lead to less electoral support for PH.

Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Oh Ei Sun, said PH supporters have become disillusioned with and apathetic about politics after last year’s ‘Sheraton Move’ so they may even be wary about casting their vote again.

“They feel betrayed and no matter how much they support PH, at the end of the day, the PH elected representatives may still switch sides,” he said.

He said a collaboration with Umno will be viewed negatively by PH supporters and it would affect electoral support for PH, especially when there are no big scandals for PH to rally supporters against PN.

Both Awang and Chin believe that an alliance between PH or PKR and Umno for the general election remains unlikely due to the DAP factor.

“I feel that there won’t be an alliance between PH/PKR and Umno as they will not be able to agree on seat distribution,” said Awang.

He added that DAP will not agree to work with Umno and vice versa, an observation that Chin fully agreed with.

“It is impossible for Umno to come together with PH in a coalition because Umno can’t work with DAP and DAP can’t work with Umno,” Chin said.

There is also the possibility of PKR playing second fiddle to Umno in the event of a PH-Umno alliance, said Oh.

He said Umno is likely to win more seats than PKR, so Umno will take the lead in a ruling coalition. This in turn would make for an unstable alliance.

Chin said PH and Umno can only cooperate on one issue, perhaps to bring down the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, but it would be difficult to set up a power-sharing government due to the differences in party ideologies.

“Umno’s race and religion ideology is incompatible with DAP’s ideology,” he pointed out.

Awang said an ideal scenario is for a coalition between PH and Umno after the general election so that they can form a government together.

“The Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the power to make a decree that they form a unity government for a new Malaysia where no groups will be sidelined as all racial groups will be fairly represented,” he said.

Oh also shares the same opinion that it would be better for Umno and PH to work together as a ruling alliance after the general election.

Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said that it would be better for Umno and PH to work together as a ruling alliance after the general election. —  Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs Oh Ei Sun said that it would be better for Umno and PH to work together as a ruling alliance after the general election. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

“After the general election, as both are unlikely to garner an outright majority, they could explain it better to their respective supporters as to the need for them to enter into a ruling alliance,” he said.

He said it would better serve the parties to only come to some sort of electoral understanding to minimise overlapping of constituencies in which they contest.

Both Chin and Awang said Sarawak and Sabah will play an important role in deciding who becomes the ruling coalition, especially when electoral support will be split between PH, Umno, PN and Bersatu in West Malaysia.

Chin said Sabah and Sarawak make up 25 per cent of seats so the power rests with them.

“Gabungan Parti Sarawak will still be the kingmaker in the next election and Sarawak will only pick a side that benefits the state,” Awang said.

He added that the side favoured by GPS would automatically have a 70 per cent chance of becoming the ruling coalition.

The analysts went on to say that Bersatu could be wiped out in the elections as it has lost the support of PH voters and made few inroads in the conservative Malay heartlands.

“Umno and PAS dominate the rural areas while PH will still do well in Chinese and mixed areas so Bersatu will be wiped out when it stands alone,” Chin said.

Awang said even an alliance between Bersatu and PAS is not enough for them to win power as PAS could only win a maximum of nine seats.

He added that without Umno, Bersatu will not stand a chance at the polls.

It was recently reported that PKR and Umno leaders had met informally to discuss possible PH-Umno cooperation.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim recently said such talks with Umno are still at a very early stage and it is premature to entertain any possibility of cooperation.

Umno is still nominally part of the ruling PN government but has informed Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu that their informal partnership will end once the general election is called.


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