Analysts predict trouble from Umno grassroots if PPBM joins MN

Analysts say negotiations for seats could heighten tensions between PPBM and Umno.

PETALING JAYA: Analysts have warned Umno of strong grassroots opposition to PPBM’s inclusion in Muafakat Nasional (MN).

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute predicted that things would come to a head when a general election is called.

The negotiations for seats would heighten tensions between Umno and its splinter party, they told FMT.

Azmi noted that the two parties were vying for support from the same demographic and said there would have to be a lot of give and take in MN if it were to succeed in taking PPBM on board.

“I think the respective leaderships can resolve this, but I’m not sure about the grassroots,” he added.

In order to persuade the grassroots to accept PPBM’s membership of MN, he said, Umno leaders must demonstrate their party’s dominance.

He said the easiest way to do this would be to ensure that the seat negotiations end with Umno contesting for all the seats currently held by former party members who have deserted the party.

“Ill feelings against MPs who have abandoned Umno run high,” Azmi said. “As I see it, it’s going to be very difficult for these ex-Umno MPs to defend their seats under the PPBM ticket.”

However, he expects an exception to be made for MPs such as Larut’s Hamzah Zainudin, Jeli’s Mustapa Mohamed and Masjid Tanah’s Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, whom he sees as likely winners in the election.

“But there are a number of ex-Umno MPs who are dispensable,” he said.

Yesterday, Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan said he had received “a lot of feedback from the grassroots” indicating disagreement with the idea of accepting PPBM’s membership of MN.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi later said in a tweet that the views of the Umno grassroots would be taken into account before any decision is made.

“The Umno Supreme Council will decide on this,” he said.

Chin said the ideal situation for the Umno grassroots would be for PPBM to be dissolved and for its members to be absorbed into Umno.

He said the grassroots were powerless but acknowledged that their disdain of PPBM could be strong enough to cause open conflict when it comes time for seat negotiations.

“Right now it’s like shadow-boxing,” he said. “The real tensions will come when a general election is called and they are forced to negotiate for seats.”

Chin said it was unlikely for Umno to compete for all the seats it contested in 2018 since a principle of seat negotiations is to allow an incumbent to vie for his seat again.

It would also be unlikely for PPBM to contest in more than 50 constituencies, he added.

He predicted that Umno and PAS would contest in most of the Malay-majority areas.

“PPBM will get a minority of the Malay seats. It will probably end up clashing mostly with PKR in the mixed seats.”

Barisan Nasional secretary-general Annuar Musa recently said MN had agreed in principle to PPBM’s wish to join the alliance and that an official invitation to the party was expected to be sent.