PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is unlikely to ditch his political ally Umno or its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi even if the party fails to deliver Malay votes in the coming six state elections, says a socio-political analyst.
Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said a poor outing in the state elections would not diminish Umno or Zahid’s relevance to Anwar nor would it result in Anwar, chairman of Pakatan Harapan, turning his priority to his other key ally, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
Previously, former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said Anwar could remain as prime minister even without Barisan Nasional’s support as he could rely on the backing of GPS.
However, Awang Azman said Anwar still needed Umno and Zahid.
“GPS only provides 23 seats, Umno’s potential to secure more seats at the next general election exceeds that figure,” he told FMT.
There are 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak and while GPS dominates the state, urban seats have traditionally been opposition strongholds.
Awang Azman also said Anwar was closer to Zahid than to GPS chairman Abang Johari Openg, owing to their time together in Umno before Anwar’s sacking.
Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir said Umno still had a large Malay support base, and this was why Anwar would not seek to replace the party even if Umno performed poorly in the state elections.
“PKR also has the ability to attract the Malay votes but currently, Umno is the best bet for Anwar to gain Malay support,” Jeniri told FMT.
Jeniri also said he did not believe Zahid’s position in Umno or the government would be in jeopardy if the party failed to deliver votes or seats
“Zahid’s position (as Umno president) will not be affected as long as the Umno MPs do not retract their support and the recent Umno polls show that the situation will not happen,” he said.
He said that even though there were no contests for the posts of Umno president and deputy president, nearly all of the party’s top office bearers were aligned to Zahid.