Umno takes 2 weeks to decide on PD boycott

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 – Barisan Nasional (BN), or more specifically Umno, have decided not to contest in the Port Dickson by-election set for October 13.

Umno President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this at a press conference today, belatedly blaming the move on the way the parliamentary seat was vacated by PKR’s Danyal Rajagopal Abdullah on Sept 12, just four months after he won the seat in the 14th general election (GE14).

Calling their move a boycott, Zahid said the by-election only stood to help new PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim fulfill his political ambitions at whatever cost.

“A by-election is called to realise the meaning of democracy to fill a seat when the incumbent dies, so of course we would want to see the democratic process take its course.

“However, if a seat becomes vacant not because of death, the BN must consider this,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama, following an Umno political bureau meeting today.

Use funds meant for by-election to help the people

He added that the funds used to run the by-election, which the Election Commission estimates will amount to about RM3.6 million, could be better used for the good of the people “in view of the government saying it was facing financial constraints”.

Meanwhile, some observers had speculated that the current opposition might give Anwar an uncontested path to the Dewan Rakyat as it would better serve their purpose with some leaders in the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition, as well as many of their supporters, also not being in favour of the engineered by-election.

It will be the fourth by-election since GE14 was held on May 9. The previous three were all for state seats in Selangor.

PKR have won two of the by-elections, in Sungai Kandis and Seri Setia, that the party contested following the demise of the state assemblymen for these two seats in the months after GE14.

DAP won the by-election for the state seat of Balakong, after the previous assemblyman Eddie Ng died in a car accident in July.

Umno may support PAS but not independents

Meanwhile, Zahid was coy on the question of supporting PAS should the Islamist party field a candidate to go up against Anwar.

“Any cooperation is based on a case-to-case basis and event-to-event basis like in the Sungai Kandis and Seri Setia by-elections,” he said, adding however, that the party would definitely not support any independent candidates in the PD by-election.

First-time candidate Danyal won the PD parliamentary seat last May with a majority of 17,710 votes, defeating BN’s Datuk V.S. Mogan, who is from MIC, and Mahfuz Roslan, from PAS.

Damage to brand UMNO with key departures

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that Umno is staying out of the race due to the damage to its brand with the departure of two former ministers from its ranks last week, as well as the possibility of more senior leaders leaving the party soon.

Kelantan Umno veteran and former international trade and industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, from Sabah Umno, both quit the party saying that they were not happy with the lack of reforms within the party.

Both men had successfully defended their parliamentary seats – Mustapa in Jeli and Anifah in Kimanis – in GE14. They have not announced any plans to join another party.

Today, Cheras Umno division head Datuk Seri Syed Ali Al-Habshee became the latest Umno stalwart to quit the party. However, he was not an elected rep at federal or state level.

– NMT