KUALA LUMPUR – June 13, 2020: It took a while for Zamani Said to open-up but when the Umno member did start talking, he did not mince his words over the idea of his party forging a long-term electoral pact with Pribumi Bersatu.
“That’s a stupid idea,” he fumed.
Zamani is adamant that Umno does not need to work with Pribumi Bersatu for the next elections, especially after winning the last four by-elections it contested with mostly the help of PAS.
“Some of the higher-ups have been dropping hints, trying to ease us in [over the plan to partner with Pribumi Bersatu in the next GE]. They are using the usual Malay unity sound bites but the grassroots are not happy with this,” said the Umno member from Langkawi.
Since its defeat in GE14, Umno had lost seven parliamentarians who crossed over to Pribumi Bersatu.
One of the defectors, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin (Larut), is now the party’s secretary-general and home minister.
For Zamani, such leaders are nothing more than turncoats who now want to be chummy with Umno because they are trying to protect their self interests.
Wanita Umno member Shahila Zahari was on the same page with Zamani in condemning the defectors.
“When BN lost in 2018, we had to endure a lot of contempt. And those from Pribumi Bersatu – who used to be with us – were the loudest to mock us.
“A new line must be drawn for the next GE, otherwise it will dampen grassroots morale,” said Shahila from the Larut division in Perak.
The current Perikatan Nasional government – formed beginning March with the aid of Umno and PAS– is led by Pribumi Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and came to power after the collapse of Pakatan Harapan days earlier.
Last week, Malay daily, Sinar Harian reported that Muhyiddin had been discussing with the Umno leadership on the possibility of allowing his party members to join Umno.
There was also speculation that Muhyiddin’s discussions were in fact more focused on making Perikatan an official coalition in preparation for GE15.
When asked about the rumblings among Umno grassroots over this likely cooperation, Tebrau division chief Datuk Maulizan Bujang suggested that for now it would be more important to just strengthen the existing cooperation.
Maulizan understands why some Umno members find it difficult to bury the hatchet over Pribumi Bersatu but wants them to be magnanimous and set aside their personal feelings.
“We were at odds with PAS for about 60 years and yet we can somehow make peace with them. What more with a four-year-old party [Pribumi Bersatu],” he said.
However, the possibility of snap elections being called may make it harder for an Umno-Pribumi Bersatu reconciliation at the grassroots level.
Rantau Umno member Shafie Mohamad pointed out that almost all the parliamentary seats that Pribumi Bersatu had won in GE14 were Umno strongholds.
“Do you think the Umno grassroots will be happy if Pribumi Bersatu gets to keep all of those seats for GE15? And what about the seats of the turncoats won under Umno’s ticket?” he asked.
Pribumi Bersatu won only 13 seats in GE14 but the number increased to 32 with the defections from Umno and PKR. Of the 32 seats, 20 were Umno strongholds the party had never lost before GE14.
The current tally of parliamentary seats is as follows: Umno 39, PKR 38, DAP 42 and Pribumi Bersatu 32 each, PAS 18 and GPS 18 each, Amanah 11, Warisan 9, Independents 6, MCA and PSB 2 each and MIC, PBRS, STAR, PBS and Upko 1 each.