PETALING JAYA: A political analyst expects PKR to take the lead in attracting the Malay vote by advancing more populist and Bumiputera-centric policies following Umno’s disappointing performance at the recent six state elections.
Despite this, Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani of Bower Group Asia says Anwar Ibrahim’s party cannot do without Umno.
“PKR will still need Umno, which, despite its disappointing performance, still has a formidable grassroots machinery. It would be too much to ask PKR to attract the conservative rural votes alone,” Asrul told FMT.
Asrul said the only other alternative would be to pursue a pardon for Najib Razak so that he can return to lead the once-dominant Malay party in a bid to recapture the lost Malay vote.
However, any collaboration with Najib could be a double-edged sword for Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition, he said.
“Anwar would need a powerful and persuasive narrative to consider working with Najib,” said Asrul.
He acknowledged that Najib’s return to Umno’s top post would undoubtedly rejuvenate the party’s grassroots and may even persuade those who left the party for Perikatan Nasional to return.
However, Asrul said Anwar may end up alienating himself from his party, its coalition partners and their supporters by working with his longtime nemesis.
“Defeating Najib and Umno in 2018 was seen as one of the greatest achievements of Pakatan Harapan. He (Anwar) risks losing support and credibility on both sides of the political divide,” he said.
Asrul was responding to Khairy Jamaluddin’s suggestion that Anwar either distance himself from Umno or continue collaborating with the party, but the latter option may require the prime minister to endorse a royal pardon for Najib.
Najib was jailed 12 years and fined RM210 million after being found guilty of corruption and abuse of power. He still faces other charges.
Khairy said the two options may be the only way forward for Anwar if Umno fails to make the necessary reforms to garner Malay support.
Meanwhile, Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said PKR will struggle to attract the Malay vote due to its close association with DAP.
He said PKR must continue to collaborate with Umno to balance out the influence of DAP.
“If they worked together with Amanah, they could give the perception that three of them are stronger compared with DAP,” he added.
Azmi said DAP was perceived as being “too dominant” compared with PKR, Amanah, and Umno. This was why the unity coalition was unable to court the Malay vote during the recent state polls, he said.
“(In) the last state elections, Umno was given the sole responsibility (of attracting the Malay vote), but the problem was that Umno was weak at that particular time,” he said.
At the state elections on Aug 12, Umno only won 19 out of the 108 seats contested. The party failed to win a single seat in Kedah and Terengganu and lost ground in Penang, Selangor and even Negeri Sembilan, where it performed best.