Umno risks repeating its misfortune in the last general election if it ditches the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, analysts say in the wake of suggestions by some party leaders that the Malay party could go it alone in the coming polls to return to power.
They say parties which support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s leadership have no choice but to acknowledge his popularity and remain in the ruling coalition, to ward off a challenge by Pakatan Harapan (PH).
“There is an impression within Umno that it can be strong on its own. This impression arose following its winning streak in by-elections such as the recent polls in Slim,” Hisommudin Bakar, who heads independent research firm Ilham Center, said referring to Umno’s latest by-election victory in Perak.
That seat, he told MalaysiaNow, was already an Umno stronghold, similar to other constituencies where the party had won by-elections since losing power in 2018.
“Umno will not win a general election if it contests alone.”
He added that the Malay vote would be split if Umno decided to work without PN, thereby giving PH the advantage.
In 2018, PH succeeded in toppling the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, largely on the back of strong support from the non-Malays.
But the coalition with Umno and PAS in three-way fights for nearly all the seats caused a split in the Malay vote, which worked to PH’s advantage.
Realising this, Umno and PAS, the country’s largest Malay-based parties, inked the Muafakat Nasional alliance to strengthen political unity among the Malays.
This cooperation bore fruit in a series of by-elections including in Cameron Highlands, Rantau, Kimanis, Semenyih, Tanjung Piai and Slim where they emerged victorious.
Pollster Merdeka Center agreed that PH would profit if PN was divided.
“It will be difficult for Umno if it doesn’t join forces with PN because the competition might become like it was in GE14,” said the centre’s executive director Ibrahim Suffian, referring to the three-cornered fights that took place in the 2018 general election.
“The results will also turn out like GE14.”
Another analyst said while Umno had been the dominant party under BN rule, in the current PN government it merely played a supporting role.
“In the context of politics and government, Muhyiddin is the head of PN and he leads the PN administration,” Al-Azharri Siddiq Kamunri told MalaysiaNow.
He said Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is a “follower because Umno is one of the parties that support the PN government”.
“So Zahid has to understand that and follow protocol,” Al-Azharri added.
“As long as Umno is in the PN government, both Umno and Zahid must follow protocol as a party that supports the PN administration, which is led by Muhyiddin and Bersatu.”
Although both parties came from “the same DNA”, he said, many changes had taken place which made Muhyiddin more apparent as a credible leader.
“First of all, Muhyiddin was a credible leader during his time in Umno to the point that he was able to become the deputy president of Umno as well as deputy prime minister.
“Secondly, Muhyiddin is more experienced and managed to prove his leadership skills, becoming the 8th prime minister in only a short time.”
He said Muhyiddin’s leadership qualities became even more evident when he succeeded in building what he called “a new political perspective” through Bersatu.
He said this was in contrast with Zahid and Umno, whose support among the Malays would decline if they contested alone.
“Fortunately, there is Muafakat Nasional under which Umno can stand with pride with additional support from PAS and its supporters,” he added.
Fazreen Kamal contributed to this report.