KUALA LUMPUR — March 1, 2016: The decision by former Umno president Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to quit the party a second time in eight years will not rip Umno apart.
That was the unanimous opinion of several analysts who reckon that a mass exodus by members is highly unlikely.
Mahathir announced yesterday that he was quitting Umno again due to his objection against the leadership of current party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
It was the same reason he left the party in May 2008 during the reign of successor in the party and government, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Mahathir rejoined Umno the following year.
“Taking the cue from when Tun Mahathir quit Umno in 2008 because of his dissatisfaction with Pak Lah’s (Abdullah) leadership, such an exodus would never happened,” said geostrategist Dr Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
He points to the fact that the groundswell within Umno is not as severe as the one during Abdullah’s presidency.
“Back then, there was a very visible dissatisfaction against his (Abdullah’s) leadership.
“It was very apparent from almost everyone in Umno, be it divisional leaders, grassroots members and also the rakyat (people).”
Azmi argued that with vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi taking over the responsibilities of the recently suspended deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, it was agiven that Umno will not easily break apart.
The same sentiment on a possible exodus was echoed by Universiti Utara Malaysia associate professor Mohd. Azizudin Mohd. Sani.
“Historically, it was never a culture for Umno members to simply leave the party,” said Azizudin, “but disgruntled members have the tendency to sabotage the party from the inside, especially during an election.”
He also cautioned the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government to be wary of Mahathir’s next move because if he creates another political movement after leaving Umno, “things will get ugly.”
“Him (Dr Mahathir) leaving Umno may not have that much of an impact on members but his words still carry weight and people will listen to him.
“If they (Umno/BN) do not take a pre-emptive approach to suppress such a movement, we may see another ‘1998 Reformasi’ movement,” said Azizudin.
On whether Mahathir will form an alliance with those previously known to be against him, Azizudin said that such a prospect may not be too far-fetched.
“In politics, especially Malaysian politics, there are no permanent enemies.
“If Pas can set aside its differences and work with DAP then I don’t think it is impossible for Mahathir to officially cooperate with his former political foes,” he told The Mole.
Be that as it may, independent analyst Professor Dr Hoo Ke Ping said that even if such a movement is to be formed, it will not be as strong as the ‘1998 Reformasi’.
He believed that Mahathir has also lost many sympathisers after his attacks against Najib.
“Don’t forget that Umno operates on patronage,” said Hoo, adding that Umno will be more united now that Mahathir has left.
“If he remains, Umno will continue to split and this would hurt the party. So in a way Mahathir leaving the party is a blessing in disguise,” said Hoo.