Former Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob has stepped up his criticism of the five-month-old government headed by Anwar Ibrahim, likening his party's coalition with Pakatan Harapan (PH) to a "forced marriage" amid recent comments by Umno and DAP leaders.
The former prime minister said cracks in the cooperation could already be seen after at least two senior Johor Umno leaders rebuked several DAP and PKR leaders for comments seen as an insult to the Malay party.
"Right now, this is just the beginning. We'll see. I don't want to comment any further. But it's happening already – DAP making comments against Umno, Umno making comments against DAP," he told reporters yesterday.
"That's why I say, you can't have a forced marriage. Marriage must be between people who like each other.
"Not just like each other at the leadership level. The grassroots must also accept this marriage. Otherwise, things like this will happen. Maybe worse. We'll wait and see."
Umno Supreme Council member Nur Jazlan Mohamed recently lashed out at PH leaders for suggesting that the party had decided to embrace the ruling coalition for the sake of survival after being rejected by its traditional Malay base in the election last year.
Jazlan claimed that DAP was a liability for the coalition government in winning back Malay support.
"They depended on Chinese-majority seats and mixed seats to win 80 seats at GE15," he reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Johor state assembly speaker Puad Zarkashi shot back at Lim Kit Siang after the DAP leader protested attempts to obtain a royal pardon for jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.
"They are afraid if Najib goes free. He is a threat to PH and Anwar. They are afraid that Umno will become stronger through cooperation between Najib and Zahid," Puad said, referring to current Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Ismail, among the Umno leaders who had opposed Zahid's move to back Anwar following the hung parliament after last year's polls, said there should be mutual love in a marriage.
"Forced marriages will not last long. If you force a marriage like this, there is no love between the two sides, and in the end there will be cracks that might lead to splits and so on," he said.
Anwar and government leaders have described their administration as a "unity government" to fulfil a request by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to political leaders for a coalition government in the wake of last year's election which saw no single coalition achieving a simple majority.
Following audiences with the Agong, it was reported that Anwar had agreed to the request while Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin said his coalition would rather become the opposition than cooperate with PH.
PN, primarily made up of Bersatu and PAS, trumped Umno at the polls, eating into the critical support base of the once ruling party in much of the peninsula.
Ahead of the six state elections to be held this year, analysts have said that cooperation between PH and Umno might not favour the Malay party in its bid to win back support, especially from young voters.