PETALING JAYA,. Umno is likely conceding the Port Dickson by-election in a bid to feed the possible power struggle forming within Pakatan Harapan (PH), according to observers.
Political analyst Azmi Hassan believed the move to be strategic, due to the perception that not all in PH are fully behind the plan to make PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the next prime minister.
Leaders in Anwar’s own party have made similar claims against PPBM, the party of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“The implicit perception from this move is that Umno is with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and will indirectly support him as the prime minister-in-waiting,” Azmi told Malay Mail.
This view dovetails with previous remarks by former Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, who hinted that his party was eyeing cooperation with Anwar and PKR.
Allowing Anwar a swift return to Parliament would only accelerate any power struggle within the ruling pact, Azmi suggested, with the margin of victory likely to signal public appetite for Anwar as the next PM.
“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 is a message from PH voters,” he said.
Economics and political analyst Prof Hoo Ke Ping said another reason why Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) are not contesting is the knowledge that their bid is already doomed.
Bereft of Chinese and Indian support, he expected 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 Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Were that to happen, Umno can simply back the former up,” he said.
Hoo also said that the professed boycott also allowed BN to cling to the last vestiges of its former pride, as the near-certain defeat would deal yet another blow to the former ruling coalition still reeling from the general election.
“It is better for them to preserve their past prestige and glory, as one cannot deny there are remnants here and there,” he said.
Both Azmi and Hoo wrote off the chances of independent candidates in the poll, saying they were likely to lose their deposits.
Social media commentator Stevie Chan has declared his intention to run as an independent, along with another independent candidate named Datuk G. Kumar Aamaan. Parti Rakyat Malaysia is also contesting the federal seat in Negri Sembilan.
PAS has yet to confirm if they will run.
Universiti Sains Malaysia political analyst Prof Sivamurugan Pandian said BN and Umno’s resources could be better used to rebuild.
“PH is at their peak and won Port Dickson with a big majority in the last general election. BN lacks the resources that they formerly had when they were the federal government,” he said.
Former Port Dickson MP Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah resigned on Sept 12 to force a by-election for Anwar to contest as part of the plan for him to return to active politics.
The Election Commission has set nominations for Sept 28 and polling for Oct 13.