Analysts: In New Malaysia, Umno’s lack of direction may lead to more members leaving

Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
Departures of party leaders, middle managers and grassroots members are bad signs for leadership, Amir said. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — Umno’s lack of direction and its courtship of parties like PAS and PKR may cause more discontent within the party and the possible departure of even more members, analysts believe.

They told the Straits Times (ST) that more Umno members will likely quit, especially since the party’s annual general assembly is scheduled to be held at the of the month and PAS leaders are expected to attend.

“Umno is struggling to find its footing in this new political landscape. It is experimenting — trying out different permutations and combinations — openly courting PAS on the right as well as flirting with Anwar and PKR,” Amir Fareed Rahim of political consultancy KRA Group told ST.

Kimanis MP Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said yesterday he resigned from Umno because Barisan Nasional had failed to implement pledges related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad, who is Jeli MP and former international trade and industry minister, announced on Tuesday his resignation from Umno, citing disillusionment with the party’s growing shift from the middle ground.

Commenting on this, Amir said that “departures of party leaders, middle managers and grassroots members are bad signs for leadership.”

Another analyst, Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani of BowerGroupAsia, viewed Umno’s continued courtship of PAS as likely to result in the party being pushed out of mainstream politics and that it will eventually become a “fringe right-wing party.”

“Umno is so used to being in power that it’s willing to negotiate, try out different alliances with whomever willing, just to return to power,” Asrul said.

Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi slammed the former leaders’ resignations by saying loyalists would not have abandoned the party in its time of need.

The Umno leadership recently attended PAS’ annual muktamar in Terengganu, with Zahid reportedly announcing plans to form a new opposition coalition with the Islamist party.

There is currently a rift within Umno between progressives who believe Umno should strive to be moderate and inclusive and conservatives who believe that an alliance with PAS and focus on race and religion will benefit the party.

Months after the May 9 general election that saw Pakatan Harapan oust Barisan Nasional from power, Masjid Tanah MP Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, Bukit Gantang MP Datuk Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal, and Bagan Serai MP Datuk Noor Azmi Ghazali quit Umno.

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