How Long Will Umno Tolerate Azmin

“Bersatu only latches on to our strength. If it had depended on PH’s strength then, it may be Umno or PAS now.”- Johor deputy liaison chief Nur Jazlan MohamedWhen Khairy Jamaluddin says that no one in Umno or PAS is more charismatic than the current prime minister, what he is really saying is that nobody in Umno and PAS is untainted by corruption scandals, or has alienated a certain section of the electorate like the way PAS does on a daily basis
The reality is that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is the only compromise candidate that Perikatan Nasional has, notwithstanding that all bets are off if a snap election is called, or even if this plays out till the next general election. The current PM is the benign face of this motley Malay uber alles backdoor government and everyone knows it
The problem, of course, is the treacherous Azmin Ali. Whenever Azmin and his cohorts open their mouths, it is a reminder of how we need anti-hopping laws in this country, but more importantly, how this could have been very different if Pakatan Harapan - like how the late Karpal Sigh argued - was committed to anti-party hopping measures
Azmin’s baggage is not that he is treacherous - this does play a part, but it is not the only issue - but rather Umno is spooked because Azmin seems to slay established politicians who stamp their imprimatur on him. He played out Anwar Ibrahim and then he outplayed the old maverick. The fact that the old maverick is in the centre of the plot that brought down the Harapan government and nearly destroyed Umno, is something that the power brokers in Umno are keenly aware of
If Dr Mahathir Mohamad had, from day one, said that he backed Anwar instead of his qualified statements, do you think all this would have happened? How could Azmin suddenly become the mastermind of the fall of Harapan
You could argue that Mahathir did not know anything about it at all, which would make him the most oblivious prime minister this country ever had and aided by the most inept political operatives, not to mention intelligence apparatus. Of course, Umno, and God knows who else, could have been a part of this treachery, but traitors are always concerned about the treachery of others and not their own
I have never rooted for Umno, but in this fight with Azmin, I find myself enjoying a big dollop of schadenfreude every time Umno smacks the treacherous former PKR power broker. It is not as if Umno is not used to treachery and is bringing back traitors into the fold, but this could have been a cataclysmic event for Umno if things had played out differently. Azmin's people continuously remind PN that it was them that brought down a “DAP-controlled" government and saved the day for the Malay establishment, never acknowledging it was Mahathir's "treachery" towards Umno that made this event possible
At this moment even with his conviction, former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak has more goodwill from the grassroots of the Umno base than Mahathir. Grassroots activists tell me that Azmin carries the old maverick's stink and the idea of Umno carrying on collaborating with him is slowly reaching breaking point
In a Reuters interview, Mahathir claimed that he was going to shove trouble down Muhyiddin's throat every single opportunity he gets, which means that the backdoor prime minister will not be able to get anything done in Parliament
Now, of course, when has anything ever been done in Parliament? But I digress. Will this scorched earth policy work out for Harapan? And of course, will the rakyat benefit from such opposition, or will this merely firm up support for the Malay uber alles government
The basic point of political warfare is the basis of military warfare. Taking and keeping ground. Why should Umno concede ground to Bersatu when the “ketuanan” section of the demographic are fatigued with the constant barrage of polemics of Malay-based parties demanding their vote
As one Umno public relations apparatchik told me, Umno’s brand, while diluted, remains potent as a tried and tested vehicle for advancing the “Malay” agenda. BN secretary-general Annuar Musa said that there could be an Umno prime minister, God willing, and the reason why he says something like this is because the grassroots are murmuring that the time will come soon when the gloves have to come off when dealing with Bersatu
This is why we have Bersatu political operatives staging all these provocations against the non-Malay polity. Like PAS which uses religion, they do not understand the kind of middle ground strategies that Umno used to employ. They need crude racial and religious polemics in an attempt to reach out to a fragmented base
The issue here is not only hearts and minds. It is also about resources and funding. Political parties are expensive. Expensive to fund and of course sustaining the base. Government positions allow a certain flow of resources, pecuniary or otherwise, that sustains grassroots level politicking. All these race and religion parties need the kind of institutional support to function. In other words, there is a scarcity of resources
It is laughable that Azmin says he is more comfortable sitting with PAS and Umno because he had more power and influence when he was in Harapan. Azmin is doing whatever it takes to buttress his fortunes in this new Malay uber alles government. Anyone who honestly believes that there is a cordial working relationship with Umno and PAS is suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress from the Sheraton Move
Umno and PAS do not even give him the dignity of a backdoor squabble. Instead, as reported in the press, there have been too many incidents where Azmin has said something and Umno or PAS or both have metaphorically spat in his face
The fact that Azmin and his treacherous cohorts have nested in Bersatu and are part of the inner sanctum further encourages the narrative that Umno seats are on the chopping board too. This, of course, is not going down well with the warlords who have their own complex fiefdoms to nurture and sustain
Bersatu is concentrating on buying time, while Umno is worried that it is running out of time
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan. - MkiniThe views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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