For Umno, no more doubts over PAS union after Tanjung Piai poll as both aim for national ‘rebranding’

Danial Dzulkifly
Tan Sri Annuar Musa is pictured in Parliament November 6, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — For Umno, the thumping victory in the Tanjung Piai by-election has cast aside any doubts within the party over whether to continue its alliance with PAS under the Muafakat Nasional Charter.

Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Annuar Musa said that BN candidate Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng’s win over Karmaine Sardini from Pakatan Harapan with a 15,086-vote majority is a sign that supporters want the Muafakat Nasional alliance.

However, this was not the case prior to the by-election when both parties had faced numerous challenges and doubts, with the most vocal urging Muafakat Nasional to field a Malay candidate on the grounds of defending Muslim interests.

When asked how certain Umno is of the level of grassroots support for Muafakat Nasional, Annuar pointed to Tanjung Piai as the clearest example.

“Of course, the by-election in Tanjung Piai was the best place for us to gauge the ground and see how our grassroots have reacted to the whole new concept of Muafakat Nasional. 

“Nine out of 10 Malay votes went to Barisan Nasional (BN). It demonstrated overwhelming support,” he said to Malay Mail.

BN’s Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng celebrate after winning the Tanjung Piai by-election, November 16, 2016. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

The Tanjung Piai by-election was the first time that Muafakat Nasional had officially thrown its hat in the ring; however, Umno and PAS had cooperated in previous by-elections, such as Rantau, Semenyih and Cameron Highlands, which proved fruitful.

The growing success of Muafakat National has led both Umno and PAS to take steps towards reinventing themselves, said Annuar.

However, Annuar stressed that Muafakat Nasional is not meant to be “Barisan Nasional 2.0” and insisted that it is “going back to basics” and adopting a more pragmatic stance.

“Muafakat Nasional cannot be BN 2.0. This is because BN was in power for too long. We grew complacent, took things for granted and even lost touch to a certain degree with the needs of the people. 

“With Muafakat Nasional, Umno is going back to basics, meaning we are listening to the needs on the ground and reinventing ourselves to meet those needs.

“For PAS, it too is reinventing itself. Before this, it was very idealistic but now it is taking a more pragmatic approach and being more realistic with its views,” he said.

Umno President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang during the launch of Muafakat Nasional Selangor in Shah Alam November 23, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

When pressed further about dissenting voices from Umno senior leadership who might still be unhappy with the political cooperation, Annuar said that party members have moved on from the issues as Muafakat Nasional has yielded positive results.

“At first, I admit there has been resistance from Umno members to working with PAS. People like Khairy and Nazri who protested in their own way but after seeing the need to cooperate, more so after working together on several by-elections, Umno members are coming together and moving in tandem under Muafakat Nasional,” he said, referring to Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin.

Annuar explained the question of how Umno plans to reinvent itself and work with other political parties in the future will be at the centre of this year’s general assembly.

The Umno general assembly is due to take place from December 4 to 7.

Annuar said among the key issues that will be discussed is amendments to Umno constitution that will see the party adapting to the current needs and aspirations of its member, and to a larger extent, the rakyat.

Such amendments, Annuar explained in brief, will see issues such as the fighting against corruption and abuse of power, transparency and human rights reflected in the party constitution.

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