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Sunday, January 31, 2021

A must-watch drama


WHAT’S the possible endgame in the raging Umno: The Clusters War?

First, let’s identify the clusters.

“Kluster mahkamah” (court cluster) consists of Umno leaders facing corruption charges in court. Former Prime Minister and ex-Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are behind this group.

This cluster wants to cut ties with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. It claims that the party led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is undermining Umno’s survival. It also wants to quit the Perikatan government so that GE15 can be called.

“Kluster kabinet” (cabinet cluster) composes of Umno MPs in the Perikatan Nasional Cabinet. Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa leads this kluster.

It wants to cooperate with Bersatu. It argues that Umno must be part of the winning team (Bersatu and PAS) in GE15.

However, not all Umno leaders facing court cases are in kluster mahkamah and not all Umno ministers are in kluster kabinet.

“The kluster kabinet is seen as traitors by kluster mahkamah for supporting Bersatu while kluster kabinet allege that the kluster mahkamah only want to save themselves (from the court cases) by aligning with (PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) and Pakatan Harapan to bring down Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, ” said Universiti Teknologi Malaysia politics and governance research group head Mazlan Ali.

“Kluster bukan mahkamah dan kabinet” comprises Umno leaders who are not facing court cases and are not in the cabinet. This kluster is headed by Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, who is fondly known as Mat Hasan.

Mazlan calls Mohamad’s group as Umno Reformasi (reform).

“They want the party to reform. They don’t openly oppose kluster mahkamah, but they want the Umno to be led by a new generation of leaders, ” he said.“Their philosophy is the same as kluster mahkamah as they don’t want to cooperate with Bersatu.”

According to Mazlan, there is a possibility that the kluster bukan mahkamah dan kabinet might work with kluster mahkamah.

“Mat Hasan is careful as he knows if there is a fight between the three clusters, his group can lose. Mat Hasan on his own can’t compete with the popularity of Najib and Zahid in Umno, ” he said.

Mazlan contends that the kluster mahkamah has a strong influence in Umno. It will not be easy for the kluster kabinet to push them out, he said: “The kluster kabinet is not strong. The only vocal one is Annuar.”

Mazlan also said Najib’s bossku branding was strong. The Pekan MP was popular among Umno grassroots even though in July 2020 the High Court found him guilty of seven charges relating to the misappropriation of RM42mil in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds.

“His influence is still strong. Although Najib doesn’t have a position in Umno, he can make a political comeback. It is not impossible for him to return as Umno president of Prime Minister, ” he said.

Political analyst Azmi Omar conceded that bossku was not only popular with Umno grassroots but with the public with his Facebook postings on practical ideas on Covid-19 and the economy. However, he did not think it would be translated into votes if he made a political comeback.

Mazlan argued based on the Umno polls in 2018 after it lost power in the Federal government, the kluster mahkamah would be able to maintain their party position.

“The Umno grassroots did not see the corruption factor to reject them. Corruption is not a taboo in the party, ” he said.

If there was a contest between Najib and Zahid against Annuar, Azmi believed that the kluster kabinet leader would lose out.

“Annuar lost when he contested for the deputy president post in 2018. Zahid was the one who pulled him up and gave him the position of Umno secretary-general and then Barisan Nasional secretary-general. Annuar, however, suddenly went against Zahid. In Umno, you don’t do that, ” he said.

In an Umno polls, Mazlan forecast that leaders in the kluster mahkamah could win based on the 2018 party election results. Ahmad Zahid won as party president whereas Annuar lost in his bid for the deputy president post.

Azmi, however, believed that the clash between the kluster mahkamah and kluster kabinet will not be resolved in the Umno polls. There is a possibility that GE15 will be held before the party elections, he said.

Mazlan believed that most Umno divisions were with the kluster mahkamah as both have the same halatuju (direction) which was they wanted the party to cut ties with Bersatu. The party grassroots saw the kluster kabinet as traitors for wanting to sacrifice Umno for the sake of the cabinet position, he said.

However, Azmi contended that the grassroots do not have a clear direction from the party’s leadership.

“There’s no general assembly yet, and there’s no policy speech from the president or motions from the party which will set the agenda for the following year, ” he said.

“At best, Umno grassroots are really confused which cluster is good for the party. But things will get clearer when Zahid’s corruption case comes to a conclusion at some point.”

On the contrary, Mazlan doesn’t think that a guilty sentence will negatively affect the Umno leaders.

“It did not affect Najib’s popularity in Umno even though the High Court found him guilty, ” he said.

Mazlan said the grassroots believe party leaders were charged in court because of a conspiracy by the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to end their political career.

“The kluster mahkamah also have told the kluster kabinet not think that they were not corrupt just because they have no court cases, ” he said.

Umno: The Endgame will be a must-watch political drama. - Star

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