Shifting political alliances on the cards after UMNO-Bersatu split, say analysts

Shifting political alliances on the cards after UMNO Bersatu split say

KUALA LUMPUR: The tussle for management in Malaysia’s authorities noticed a key growth on Thursday with United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) severing ties with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) going into the subsequent basic election.  

UMNO, in a Feb 26 resolution, indicated that it will not cooperate with Bersatu in the subsequent basic election. The two are presently in the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) authorities. 

In response, Bersatu launched an announcement saying that transferring ahead, it would focus on improving cooperation with its partners in the PN coalition, together with Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and different regional and smaller events. 

Political analysts CNA spoke to stated the writing had been on the wall for the previous few months for UMNO and Bersatu to half methods.

Mr Muhyiddin Yassin’s PN authorities was shaped following the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration in February final yr. As social gathering president, he had led Bersatu out of PH and joined forces with UMNO and PAS in an influence tussle in Putrajaya. 

However, ties between UMNO and Bersatu have frayed in latest months, with 189 out of UMNO’s 191 divisions nationwide rejecting working with Bersatu in January.

Mr Muhyiddin has reiterated that he’ll dissolve parliament as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is over, therefore the speak of an imminent basic election in Malaysia.   

Analysts stated this cut up between UMNO and Bersatu might set off extra shifting alliances, which might result in unlikely partnerships forward of the subsequent basic election.

READ: Motion tabled for UMNO to cut ties with Bersatu in the next general election, says party supreme council


Analysts defined that there have been clear indicators signalling cracks early on in the relationship between UMNO and Bersatu. 

Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, recalled how in March 2020, following the collapse of the PH authorities, UMNO had shaped the PN authorities alongside Bersatu and PAS, pondering that it will be allowed to play an influential position in Mr Muhyiddin’s administration. 

“UMNO was the party with the largest number of MPs in the coalition, more than Bersatu,” he stated. 

“In the end they were outmaneuvered, with many key ministerial positions given to Bersatu MPs. UMNO was found wanting,” he added.  

He cited how Mr Muhyiddin named 4 senior ministers in his Cabinet, which included two from Bersatu and just one from UMNO. 

Political analyst from Sunway University, Dr Wong Chin Huat, highlighted that the partnership between Bersatu and UMNO had all the time been a “zero-sum game” as a result of they’re each Malay-based events, concentrating on assist from the similar voters.

Kampung Air Masin Kukup

Kampung Ayer Masin in Kukup is dwelling to a whole bunch of fishermen in Kukup. Party flags lined the highway on this picture taken throughout the Tanjung Piai by-election in November 2019. (Photo: Fadza Ishak) 

UMNO and its most threatening splinter Bersatu cannot agree on seat allocation and prime minister candidate (for the next GE) because the two parties are after the same electoral base, nationalist Malays,” stated Dr Wong. 

He additionally echoed Prof Chin’s sentiments, explaining how UMNO sees itself as the superior social gathering with extra seats and stronger grassroots in the rural Malay heartlands. 

“Bersatu has not hidden its ambition to break up and annex UMNO. On the other hand, UMNO, with more seats and stronger machinery on the ground, sees no reason to concede the prime ministership to Bersatu,” he added. 

Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, added that the cut up was all the time on the cards as each UMNO and Bersatu had been vying for the driver’s seat in the ruling coalition. 

“It takes two to tango, even in a political breakup,” stated Dr Oh. 

“The mutual distrust and irksomeness simmered over time until the recent breaking point,” he added. 

READ: Commentary – UMNO’s fear that Bersatu could destroy it does have some basis


Dr Oh stated Bersatu might have a troublesome time profitable seats in the subsequent election, because it has misplaced assist from some voters who supported it when it was a part of the PH coalition in the final basic election in 2018. 

Furthermore, he added that Bersatu, which was based in 2016, has but to match UMNO in capturing assist from the conservative Malay voters. 

“However, Bersatu could still rely on its ally PAS, which has strong roots in Kelantan and Terengganu,but the price of PAS’s assistance could mean a continued rollout of the Islamist party’s theocratic agenda in a Bersatu-PAS ruling coalition,” he stated. 

As for different events in the PN coalition, which consists of former Barisan Nasional part Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan), Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku Rakyat Sabah (STAR) and Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), the latter two which important base of assist is in the northern Borneo state, Dr Oh stated these may every retain their area of interest seats. 

Gerakan has no parliamentary seat at current.

READ: Sabah’s surprise results – and how Warisan lost big in state elections, a commentary

“But as each seat counts in forming a ruling coalition, they would still play an indispensable, albeit minor role,” he defined. 

Bersatu could be “annihilated” if UMNO and PAS head into the polls as companions, stated Dr Wong. 

He stated PAS might again UMNO in the polls, as the two events have an ongoing Muafakat Nasional pact, which has a aim to unite Malay-Muslim political energy. 


Dr Oh outlined that the cut up between Bersatu and UMNO might favour UMNO transferring ahead, because it has a lot of seats and will dictate phrases with whichever events it chooses to type a coalition with. 

“If UMNO wins substantially more seats than it has now, as seems likely, it could pick and choose its partners, including working again with Bersatu or with PH, to build a new ruling coalition where it would take firm and leading charge,” he added. 

UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS President Hadi Awang hold hands during Ummah Unity Gather

United Malays National Organization (UMNO) President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (L) and Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) President Hadi Awang maintain palms throughout Ummah Unity Gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

Dr Wong predicted that the seats in Peninsular Malaysia will be dominated by three teams: PH, UMNO and PAS in the polls.  

“If Pakatan Harapan wins the largest share but less than 90 seats in Peninsular Malaysia, then it would most likely be an PH-UMNO government with their East Malaysian allies. If UMNO wins the largest share, then UMNO may have the choice of UMNO-PH or UMNO-PAS, also with their respective East Malaysian allies,” he added.

However, Prof Chin maintained that there are factions inside UMNO which might be nonetheless prepared to work alongside PN. 

He added that whereas the largest bloc, led by former prime minister Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, is eager for UMNO to depart PN, different UMNO leaders who assist Mr Muhyiddin might pull the social gathering in one other route. 

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jul 28, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/ Lim Huey Teng)

An instance could possibly be Mr Annuar Musa, who was sacked as Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s secretary-general in January. 

Mr Annuar was seen as a proponent of UMNO’s continued alliance with Bersatu and PAS, and was reportedly sacked as he has not been toeing UMNO’s social gathering strains and was seen to be siding with the ruling PN coalition. 

Prof Chin stated the resolution for UMNO to depart PN might result in some leaders leaving the social gathering, weakening UMNO. 


Although there’s a chance for UMNO now to associate PH in the subsequent election and type an enormous alliance with likelihood of profitable, Prof Chin maintained that this could be unlikely as a consequence of inherent variations. 

He famous that there are variations in political stance and racial ideology between UMNO and the likes of Mr Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Democratic Action Party (DAP) and therefore an alliance coalition between UMNO and PH could be “not possible”. 

However, he said that UMNO and PH might work collectively on one situation – to demand that parliament is dissolved and strain Mr Muhyiddin to name for a basic election. 

READ: Perikatan Nasional agrees on UMNO representative as new Perak chief minister, replacing ousted Bersatu leader

“But to work together in a coalition? I don’t think so. The divide between UMNO and PKR is too deep, and of course UMNO absolutely hates the DAP. So that’s not possible,” stated Prof Chin. 

On the different hand, he added {that a} key situation that would unite the three Malay-based events, Bersatu, UMNO and PAS, was to make sure that PH and a few of its non-Malay based mostly events like DAP don’t type the authorities. 

PH Presidential Council meeting 01

Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council assembly on Jul 6, 2020. (Photo: Facebook/Anwar Ibrahim)

“If the three Malay parties don’t stick together, and they split the Malay vote … the ultimate fear for them will be that the non-Malay parties will make a comeback and win the election,” he added. 

For Dr Oh, since the possibilities of the incumbent PN authorities being toppled in a reverse “Sheraton Move” appeared much less and fewer seemingly, all events must focus on their prospects in the subsequent election, even for the opposition PH coalition.

READ: Anwar Ibrahim says he has ‘strong majority’ to form a new government in Malaysia

“There is no point appearing overly friendly with UMNO at this moment. PH should focus on consolidating its support base, which has been subtly disintegrating as a sense of futility and haplessness sets in, in time to tackle the next general election,” Dr Oh stated.

If the PH coalition might win the similar variety of seats it presently holds, or extra, it might then decide and select its companions. All types of mixtures and their permutations would then open up, he added. 

“The gist is, win as many seats as possible. Then talk cooperation,” Dr Oh stated. 


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