A group of Umno leaders facing a string of corruption charges have been busy trying to convince grassroots members against continuing an alliance with Perikatan Nasional (PN), sources close to private conversations in the top echelons of the Malay party have told MalaysiaNow.
Instead, they prefer to work with arch enemies in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition while pushing a narrative of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu being a “bully” to Umno.
“It is a narrative that will evoke strong emotions among Umno members and the Malay vote bank,” the source said.
Any alliance between Umno and PH would be another historical milestone in Malaysian politics, similar to the cooperation formed by former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the opposition in the 2018 election.
Some anti-Muhyiddin Umno leaders now hope that replicating that cooperation might help return the party to federal power – minus Muhyiddin and Bersatu.
All it needs is to win between 30 and 40 seats in the next election, keeping in mind that PH as a coalition could win the most seats as it did at the last general election.
Negotiations have been stepped up in recent weeks, with PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and his Umno counterpart Ahmad Zahid Hamidi “getting back to their political nostalgia”, as one source put it, referring to the duo’s close ties in Umno in the 1990s.
One hurdle, however, is that Zahid and his predecessor Najib Razak – among the most vocal against Muhyiddin – are likely to end up in jail after being convicted of corruption charges.
Najib was convicted in July last year, and his 12-year jail sentence is pending an appeal.
Meanwhile, Zahid faces the huge challenge of wiggling out of the 47 charges with which he has been slapped.
“The deal is, after Anwar is elected as prime minister, Zahid will be freed from his corruption charges and elected as deputy prime minister, while a royal pardon will be granted to Najib,” the source said to MalaysiaNow.
The source said what the PH government did in securing freedom for Anwar – who was serving a jail sentence when the coalition won the 2018 election – could be replicated for Umno leaders.
Under PH, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was also freed of charges related to the purchase of a bungalow in Penang.
“That experience in dealing with Anwar and Lim’s cases gives confidence to Zahid, Najib and others from the court cluster to form an alliance with PH,” the source added.
New political alignment
Meanwhile, Umno leaders are aware that efforts to stitch together an alliance with PKR and DAP must not be made public, for fear of losing support from Umno members as well as the Malay community, seen as the Umno vote bank which still holds the party as a fallback to ensure Malay political dominance.
A key reason behind the move for an alliance with PH parties is Muhyiddin’s clear public stance not to intervene or influence the outcome of criminal cases involving politicians who are part of the ruling bloc.
“It is a matter of life and death for the court cluster. PH is their last hope to be freed from corruption charges after they failed to persuade Muhyiddin,” said the source.
It was also due to this that the group of Umno leaders joined forces to press for Parliament to convene during the emergency period.
Last week, Zahid and Anwar, in their capacities as the heads of BN and PH, issued almost identical statements calling for a Dewan Rakyat sitting.
The move was an embarrassment to Umno leaders, with social media abuzz with those mocking Zahid.