PETALING JAYA: A political analyst speculates that some forces in Umno will press for the party’s departure from Perikatan Nasional (PN) in protest against the conviction of former prime minister Najib Razak on corruption charges.
Kamarul Zaman Yusoff of Universiti Utara Malaysia told FMT the pressure could come from members believing that other leaders of the party might also suffer Najib’s fate.
“Some may think that what happened to Najib could happen to other Umno leaders with court cases pending,” he said.
However, Kamarul added, some Umno leaders, particularly those inside the government, would probably reject the idea of separation from PN.
“In fact, I don’t think Umno can get a consensus to quit Perikatan Nasional.”
Umno leaders might not want to give the impression that the party was trying to interfere with the legal process, he said.
Kamarul said some of those who would be pushing for the quit move would be thinking of the fragility of the ruling coalition and would see it as a way of forcing a snap election.
“But it’s risky for Umno to force a snap election. I don’t see how Umno, with its dented image, will gain from it.
“However, it is likely that criticism of the government from Umno on various issues will increase.”
He also said Umno would need PAS, its partner in Muafakat Nasional, to back any attempt to leave PN but added that he did not think the Islamist party’s leaders were ready to commit to any drastic move.
To pull out of PN, he said, PAS would need a nobler reason than dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s failure to prevent Najib’s conviction.
“For Muafakat Nasional to pull out of supporting Muhyiddin, the only narrative that could work is that it is for the good of the people, particularly the Malays.”
Another analyst, Mohd Izani Mohd Zain of Universiti Putra Malaysia, said Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s remarks following the court’s verdict on Tuesday raised a question as to where the party would stand in relation to PN.
Zahid announced that Umno would make drastic political decisions.
“Maybe it will push for a snap election,” Izani said.
But he said the party would more likely go only as far as supporting Najib in his effort to clear his name through court appeals.
Another analyst, Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya, said defending Najib could prove risky for Umno, adding that “now is the right time” for the party to rebrand itself.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said many in Umno were probably happy to see Najib fall since he had left a void they could fill.
“Any initial show of support would be superficial at best,” he said. “They have to do that since he’s one of their former leaders.”