Bersatu breakup debate at Umno AGM could end up storm in a teacup

Analysts say opposition against Zahid unlikely to succeed, and Umno will close ranks.

The Umno general assembly is expected to see a heated debate between two factions over the party’s decision to cut ties with Bersatu in the next general election.

However, it could all end up a storm in a teacup.

While opposition against party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is expected, analysts believed it is unlikely to succeed.

“Umno’s general assembly will not be peaceful. I foresee that one group will try to do something against Zahid, but it will not be easy… things will still be under control,” said University Malaya political analyst associate professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

Zahid’s faction, dubbed the “court cluster”, is pushing for ties with Bersatu to be severed, while some ministers in the “cabinet cluster” want to keep Perikatan Nasional plus intact.

However, Azman said it is difficult to move against Zahid at the annual general meeting (AGM) as the Umno institution makes things hard for dissidents or challengers to push through an agenda that contradicts what had been decided by the party’s supreme council.

Secondly, Zahid still wields the power of the pen when it comes to candidates in the next general election.

“While Zahid could not reward (party members) with a position in government-linked companies (GLCs) as he is not the prime minister, he still has the power to sign the candidates’ appointment letter,” he said.

UMNO President Zahid Hamidi

For this reason, Azman believes that many fear they may not be reappointed as candidates.

Ultimately, he said Umno would strive to close ranks when the curtains fall at the AGM on March 28.

Umno supreme council member Razlan Rafii, who is seen as a supporter of Zahid, said party unity would be the focus of the AGM.

“General elections will come soon after the end of the nationwide emergency, so we will focus on how to unite all groups, so there is no split among us,” he said.

Razlan dismissed speculation that debates at the general assembly will be heated.

UMNO Supreme Council Member Razlan Rafii

Concurring with this, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin said he expects to see a peaceful general assembly this weekend.

“It is just in the supreme council meetings where things get a little heated sometimes,” he added.

For political analyst Ahmad Atory Hussain, the party will have to unite as the 15th general election could determine whether or not Umno survives.

Just like 2018, Atory said the next polls would be a difficult one for the party – and as such, it must cooperate with others to succeed.

“Umno must work with other parties. It needs to keep its ego in check, the same goes for other parties. Umno can win the elections if it works together with others,” he said.


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