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Umno and Bersatu to part ways for coming Malaysian general election

Sources said that Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin could offer the former health minister his old post amid the growing coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Mar 4, 2021, ST. The largest party in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government will not ally itself with his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia at a general election expected soon after Malaysia’s state of emergency ends in August, The Straits Times reported.

Bersatu secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin confirmed that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had written on Feb 26 to Tan Sri Muhyiddin that their pact will end as soon as Parliament is dissolved.

“The political bureau has determined that Bersatu’s stand will be decided at a Supreme Council meeting this evening,” Datuk Seri Hamzah, who is also the Home Minister, said in a statement on Thursday (March 4).

Umno’s decision will likely mean a repeat of 2018’s three-way election battle which resulted in the shock end of the once-dominant party’s six-decade rule as the then Bersatu-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) swept to power.

The Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) disintegrated after the loss, with just four out of the original 13 components left in the coalition, and others joining Bersatu’s new Perikatan Nasional (PN) in the past year.

Some studies and analyses have predicted that a three-cornered battle could result in a hung Parliament, with PH potentially the largest bloc.

On the other hand, if BN and PN were to join forces, they could win over two-thirds of Parliament, as all three major parties representing the Malay majority would be on the same team.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) is officially a member of PN, but it also has an informal pact with Umno called Muafakat Nasional inked in 2019 to ensure Malay-Muslim interests are protected.

Umno had agreed to back Mr Muhyiddin as premier a year ago after PH collapsed, but a faction in the party led by Zahid and former premier Najib Razak have since agitated for a split amid grumbles at playing second fiddle despite being the senior party in government.

Two Umno MPs pulled support for Mr Muhyiddin in January, depriving the Premier of his already wafer-thin majority in Parliament.

But a state of emergency was swiftly declared, doing away with the need for Parliament to reconvene or polls to be held until August, or earlier should a bipartisan panel decide that the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa – one of several Umno leaders who favour cooperation with Bersatu at the next polls – had on Wednesday demanded that Zahid confirm if it was true he had written to Mr Muhyiddin, while expressing doubt that the decision to cut ties was determined at the party’s last leadership meeting on Feb 19.

“Doesn’t this move, when an election date has yet to be set, hand Umno a disadvantage as the government, especially Bersatu, will no longer cooperate with Umno leaders who have already taken the stance to take on or reject Bersatu?” said the former BN secretary-general who was sacked from the position in January.

The news also comes ahead of Umno’s annual general assembly on March 27, where the internal schism over whether to continue the alliance with Bersatu is set to take centrestage.

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