Anything possible for fractured Umno in quest to stay alive

If there was one key take away from Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s press conference in Bangsar yesterday, it would be Umno is fractured.

While the Pasir Salak MP and Umno election director did not say so directly, it was obvious that the political party is desperate for a strategic partnership that will earn it a stronger footing in Putrajaya.

Leading the Barisan Nasional coalition, Umno had been in power for six decades but was given the boot in the 2018 general election.

That was a wake-up call for a party that had been overly confident for far too long. After Pakatan Harapan lost power early last year, Umno inched its way back into the government, albeit on a smaller scale. Despite having the numbers and machinery, it is playing bridesmaid to the smaller yet seemingly powerful Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

Umno divisions nationwide started the new year with a three-day meeting that ended on Sunday.

As Tajuddin revealed – the general consensus is for Umno to stay away from Bersatu in GE15.

Asked if a coalition with PKR and DAP is possible to make up the numbers, Tajuddin’s immediate reply was: “Anything is possible in politics. You cannot rule it out.”

He singled out several senior Umno leaders who publicly said they will not work with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and DAP.

“(Tan Sri) Annuar Musa … tak habis-habis (never-ending) no Anwar Ibrahim, no AI, no PKR. And Hisham (Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein) … it’s just a handful of them. To me, nothing is impossible.”

Why nothing is impossible? Tajuddin explained:

“Umno believes it will be buried by the current political scenario. Umno doesn’t have a (strong) position in government to strengthen the party compared to other parties that have (leaders with) power, influence, money and allocation.

“At the grassroots, Umno members are being approached to leave the party. Bersatu wants to set up divisions in the villages and they use Umno members.

“This will threaten Umno’s survival. At the top level, as you all already know, some have jumped to get ministerial and deputy ministerial posts.”

He said those who exited Umno were “baited” to leave the party.

“They (Bersatu) have the power, influence, money … they can do that. So we will see Bersatu expanding its party to be bigger and we suspect they will be big so that Umno will be a small party.”

He poked fun at Umno’s portfolios in the government, saying: “Right now we play a small part in the government, Youth (and Sports Ministry), Unity (Ministry), Defence (Ministry) … senior (minister) konon (as if) … what can be done to help the rakyat, to help the party?”

He added money has been dangled to “buy” Umno members.

“We hope PAS will be with Muafakat Nasional. In fact, PAS and Umno have been together for a long time but now it seems shaky as they have new partners.

“The women would understand … married for some time and (suddenly the partner) is interested in another woman. Sad lah, correct or not? (laughs)”

“We urge PAS to stay loyal with us. We stay loyal with them and they stay loyal with us in Muafakat Nasional.”

Umno and PAS have the influence in rural areas and have the machinery muscle compared to other parties. This can be seen through the series of by-elections won by Umno and Barisan Nasional candidates, thanks to their partnership with PAS, right after 2018.

“We have given and compromised a lot. We hope that Bersatu will recognise our contributions but as you all know, we have not been receiving the recognition we deserve.”

In fact, just minutes earlier, Tajuddin made a point by saying he was not afraid of anyone, including Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as he addressed the issues involving Prasarana.

He went on to stress that Budget 2021 would not have been passed but for Umno’s support – a clear indication that Umno is no longer going to be polite about its dwarfed position in the government.

In this era where everyone thinks they can be prime minister, Umno has to first get its senior leaders aligned before establishing ties with other parties to stay alive and kicking come GE 15.