February 27, 2024

New Malaysia Times

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Is Umno playing waiting game by not-contesting PD?

Anwar Ibrahim Port Dickson

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — As the nomination day for the Port Dickson by-election polls approaches, the reality is that Pakatan Harapan’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is the likely winner with only one independent candidate taking him on so far.

Barisan Nasional, or more importantly Umno, have stepped aside saying they are “boycotting” the by-election because of the perceived “undemocratic” way by which the seat became vacant, that is through someone quitting rather than dying.

Let alone it took them 10 days to come up with that excuse, the reality on the ground is that with more than half the PD voters being non-Malays, they were in for a real pounding.

So with MIC, which had contested the seat in the 14th general election last May staying out, Umno knows not to damage its reputation further after the by-election in the Malay-majority Sungai Kandis state seat in Selangor, which it lost heavily despite support from PAS.

It is doubtful that the supporters of the “super liberals”, whom Anwar was referring to in a speech he made yesterday, would even vote for BN.

Succession plan in doubt

On the other hand, the move is also a strategic move to muddy the waters within PH, over the succession plan that had been agreed for Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to step down in order for Anwar to take over.

The agreement was for it to happen after two years, maybe in three. All the PH component party leaders agreed that Anwar would be the country’s eighth prime minister. So did their supporters, presumably, by accepting the coalition and voting them into government.

So, Umno’s move only feeds into this scenario where many PH supporters are now claiming or even fearing, that Anwar will try to usurp power sooner rather than wait for Mahathir to give up the premiership.

That would only work to Umno’s advantage too, with the mess that PKR is in now, over the split down party lines in the race for PKR deputy president between incumbent Dato’ Mohamed Azmin Ali and current vice-president Rafizi Ramli.

What could happen in the near to mid-term is anyone’s guess, but Umno are willing to bide their time.

Not all in PH want Anwar as PM

Malay Mail reported political analyst Azmi Hassan as saying that the perception is evident too, that not all in PH are fully behind the plan to make Anwar the next prime minister.

“The implicit perception from this move is that Umno is with Anwar and will indirectly support him as the prime minister-in-waiting,” Azmi told Malay Mail.

Coming after former minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s claim that he would support Anwar in PD and the likelihood of cooperation with Umno, then the strategy seems to make more sense too.

Anwar could use landslide win to push for takeover

According to Azmi, Anwar could easily turn a landslide victory in PD as justification for him to be PM sooner than later. His supporters inside PKR are likely to use it too, more so, should Rafizi, who is aligned to Anwar, win the party polls against Azmin.

“The beauty of this is that it has nothing to do with Umno since they are sitting out of this by-election. The by-election result would ultimately be a message from PH voters,” he said, according to Malay Mail.

Another long-time political observer noted how giving up the challenge against Anwar will earn some good will with Anwar and his supporters.

Umno gift-wrapped seat to earn future goodwill

Economics and political analyst Prof Hoo Ke Ping said Umno also knows their bid is already doomed.

“Umno would have stood no chance in the poll and would profit more from gift-wrapping the seat for Anwar to earn some future goodwill.

“The idea is to support Anwar in the event he goes to loggerheads with Mahathir Mohamad. Were that to happen, Umno can simply back the former up,” he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.

“It is better for them to preserve their past prestige and glory, as one cannot deny there are remnants here and there.”

Though both Azmi and Hoo have written off any chance of independent candidates making an impact, and likely losing their deposits, it must be remembered that what happened in GE14, which led to the end of BN’s reign can happen again, if the people do want to send a message to our leaders.

The parliamentary seat was vacated by PKR’s Danyal Rajagopal Abdullah on Sept 12, just four months after he won the seat in GE14.

He won the seat with a majority of 17,710 votes, defeating BN’s Datuk V.S. Mogan, who is from MIC, and Mahfuz Roslan, from PAS.

The Election Commission has set nominations for September 28 and polling for October 13.

– NMT