PETALING JAYA: A political analyst says the strong response of Umno leaders to a PPBM minister’s remarks about the party is a reflection of the deeply rooted resentment that Umno grassroot members hold towards Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s party.
While Mersing MP Abd Latiff Ahmad has apologised for his comments that Umno is unpopular in Sabah, Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi said the reality is that the Umno grassroots are bitter about what PPBM, a splinter party of Umno, did to them in the 14th general election.
“The ex-Umno leaders ran down their old party and labelled them as corrupt, so it is hard for the grassroots to accept PPBM the same way as it is difficult for PAS grassroots to embrace Amanah.
“Umno leaders can say what they want but it’s different at the grassroots level and this is why I think Umno Supreme Council member Annuar Musa has changed his tune,” Awang Azman said.
He was referring to Annuar’s recent remarks that Barisan Nasional intended to defend all its traditional seats regardless of whether they were “won in the 14th general election or won in previous elections”.
Before that, Annuar’s remarks that Umno would back Muhyiddin as prime minister in the next election drew criticism from a number of Umno leaders.
“The recent statements from leaders on Umno wanting its seats highlight the sentiments on the ground. It is important that Umno listens to its grassroots as they will decide if Umno can become the dominant party once more,” Awang Azman said.
In GE14, he said, Umno’s grassroots protested against its elites but were still very much with the party and this revival was evidenced in its winning streak in recent by-elections.
He also said there was talk among party circles that former prime minister Najib Razak should be pushed to lead Umno and BN once more.
“It looks like if Najib is freed of his charges, a return to lead Umno is certain,” he said, adding that the former prime minister had much stronger machinery and support than Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Kuala Lumpur Umno Youth information chief Wan Agyl Wan Hassan meanwhile told FMT there were concerns on the ground that the views of the grassroots members were not being considered enough, citing the party’s representation in the Cabinet.
“The president was given the mandate to negotiate for Umno, but many were not happy with the outcome,” he said.
“In the name of moving forward, especially with the Covid-19 crisis, this has been put aside. But the general belief is that Umno should play a bigger role especially on the political side of Perikatan Nasional.”
This, Wan Agyl said, was because Umno held the lion’s share of seats and commanded grassroots support.
“The issue is not about who the prime minister is. Credit must be given where it is due, Muhyiddin has been doing a good job, but Umno should drive the political agenda, not PPBM.”
He said there were concerns that because Umno received an “unfavourable” deal in Perikatan Nasional, this could happen if the party stood with PN in GE15.
“There are murmurings among leaders that Najib should be made Umno president and BN chairman so that we do not get a poor deal going into GE15,” he said.
Umno Supreme Council member Puad Zarkashi said the Umno grassroots were not easily swayed and that former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and PPBM’s biggest failure was influencing Umno division chiefs to shift to PPBM.
“That is why you can count the number of PPBM divisions with your hands even though they have been in power for two years,” he said, adding that the grassroots want Umno to become the dominant party again.
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