It did not take long for some Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders and their publicists to welcome with open arms a hint by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that his party could work the opposition coalition in Perak, with a flurry of social media and online writings describing such an alliance as “good for the nation”.
Leaders from DAP, PKR and Amanah as well as analysts sympathetic to PH said the initiative would be beneficial to Malaysians.
It is a view which could rile up DAP’s vehemently anti-Umno vote bank, who played a key role in the downfall of Barisan Nasional in the 2018 election.
DAP’s Johor chief Liew Chin Tong even penned a lengthy piece praising his Umno counterpart, saying Hasni Mohammad, who took over as menteri besar following PH’s collapse early this year, should be emulated by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
“Hasni is now prepared to change the narrative and provide a fresh framework for bipartisanship. We do not see that leadership from Muhyiddin’s federal government,” Liew wrote.
Umno grassroots unhappy
The emerging narrative follows a power vacuum in Perak after Umno’s move to oust Ahmad Faizal Azumu as menteri besar following differences with the Bersatu leader.
Zahid, who previously backed PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim to wrest power from Muhyiddin, said working with PH in Perak could be an option in the event that Umno fails to obtain support from PAS and Bersatu, who have condemned the plot against Faizal and threatened to stay out of any new state government.
The statement riled up Umno grassroots, with social media postings showing a repeat of the anger against Zahid and former leader Najib Razak when it was revealed that they had jointly written a letter to the palace in support of toppling the Perikatan Nasional government.
“Would the grassroots keep quiet at the cost of their party, all for the sake of rescuing Zahid and Najib?” read one message making the rounds on WhatsApp.
Zahid and Najib have been slapped with a total of 79 corruption charges, with their cases continuing even after Umno returned to the government. In July, Najib was convicted of nine corruption charges.
Last night, the Umno Supreme Council put to rest any speculation that it would work with PH in Perak.
But whether it has succeeded in calming PAS and Bersatu is another question. In an immediate reaction following the announcement, both parties said they were disappointed with Umno.
‘Good for Malays’
A PH publicist who has been among the staunchest critics of Umno welcomed a union between the two sides.
But Kim Quek, accusing the Malay party of being corrupt and championing race supremacy, said “urban Malays” no longer hold to Umno’s “racist ideology and corrupt practices”.
He also said Umno’s cooperation with DAP and others would benefit the Malays.
“Through such Umno-Harapan joint venture, with the right policies in place, Malays will surely make such progress in education and the economic fields (together with other races) as they have never seen before,” he wrote on Malaysiakini.
A similar narrative is offered by Amanah’s Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who said Umno and PH could bring about a strong state government in Perak.
The Parit Buntar MP also said working with PH would redeem Umno’s mistake of joining the Sheraton Move, a series of meetings in Petaling Jaya in February which eventually brought down the PH government.
“Umno could rectify the situation from the curse of the Sheraton Move and PAS’ betrayal of political comradeship, and ultimately restore its image and comfortably enter the general election fray,” Mujahid said.
PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad meanwhile said the coming together of disparate parties is expected “in an era of coalition politics”.
“It is natural and inevitable that we might find ourselves on different ends of the political spectrum.
“But in the face of multiple crises, we should unite in a broad, progressively-minded combination and moderate our sentiments to allow Malaysia to recover and move forward,” Nik Nazmi, a loyalist of Anwar, wrote on his Facebook.
For now, Umno’s top leaders appear to have ruled out the suggestion of working with PH, despite it coming from the party president.
But far from celebrating its success of removing Faizal, Umno may have opened up a whole new set of problems in its search for new friends.