Polls campaign on the line as Umno calls for Najib’s release

Mohd Farhan Darwis

Pakatan Harapan risks its supporters voting for Perikatan Nasional the more the latter’s federal partner Barisan Nasional pushes for Najib Razak’s release. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 21, 2023.

PAKATAN Harapan (PH) grassroots are worried their campaign will be affected by Umno’s call to free jailed ex-prime minister Najib Razak.

They told The Malaysian Insight Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s message can affect PH’s election campaign, although the call was only directed at Najib’s supporters in Barisan Nasional (BN).

They referred to Zahid’s statement earlier this month that one vote for BN and PH is a vote for Najib.

PKR grassroots leader Firzan Hakimi said he is well aware BN’s campaign for the state polls would be affected if Najib’s supporters’ concerns are not addressed, but PKR supporters will protest if BN campaigns for Najib’s release. 

“Zahid’s statement is to persuade disgruntled Najib supporters to back the unity government.

“They were previously told Najib may be freed from prison if Umno became part of the government, but until today nothing has happened,” said the former PKR student leader.

Firzan, 23, said every issue will affect PH’s chances since BN controls several seats.

“Some are threatening not to vote, some want to vote for Perikatan Nasional (PN); to some extent, it is interfering with BN’s campaign,” he said.

“It will be somewhat disruptive, but in the end, if PH supporters don’t vote, that is the end of it. Whether or not they are disappointed, the question is whether they will vote,” he said.

Firzan said previous trends showed PH, DAP, and PKR supporters agreeing with the views of top leaders and showed up to vote, especially the Chinese and Indian community.

Pakatan Harapan grassroots say it could be hard for supporters to reconcile the bloc’s partnership with Barisan Nasional after years of Umno-PKR rivalry. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 21, 2023.

Otai Reformis former secretary Abdul Razak Ismail said he is aware many PKR voters are not comfortable with BN’s cooperation, and there are fears PN could take advantage of this situation.

Razak said the situation could lead to the defeat of Umno candidates in Selangor.

“Many voters are not very happy with Umno. It is very likely Umno candidates contesting in Selangor will lose if the grassroots are not happy with the PKR-Umno alliance.

“PAS will use this sentiment that Umno was once an enemy of PH, but now sleep together on one pillow,” he said.

Razak, who is now secretary of Green Party, questioned what Umno is doing, taking advantage of its partnership with PH to free Najib who was imprisoned for embezzlement and corruption.

He said it is different from PKR’s reform campaign years ago to free Anwar.

“On what grounds should Najib be released? To lead Umno? We have to think about that. We freed Anwar so he can contest. But for Najib, what is it for? To return to lead Umno?” he asked.

Razak agreed with Firzan that calls to support Najib in state election campaigns would generate negative reactions from PH supporters.

“Bersatu and PN will use this issue as propaganda so many members of PKR will not agree with the unity government and Umno.

“We fought for 24 years. Such sentiments still exist among party members.

“This is actually an Umno issue, not a PH issue, but it will affect us,” he said.

Six states will hold polls on August 12, along with the Kuala Terengganu by-election.

The elections are set to be a tough showdown between the PH-BN alliance and PN, though smaller parties like Muda and Parti Sosialis Malaysia are contesting under the third-force banner. – July 21, 2023.

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