KOTA KINABALU,Mar 24: Many Sabahans are asking whether the fraying relationship between Umno and PPBM at the federal level will affect the cooperation between their Sabah chapters in the next general election.

Sabah Umno chief Bung Moktar Radin recently said his party would continue to work with PPBM despite the widening rift between the two parties at the federal level.

Bung, who is also the deputy chief minister, said Sabah Umno’s autonomy to decide on any political cooperation made it possible for the party to maintain its relations with Sabah PPBM, led by Chief Minister Hajiji Noor.

It was because of that autonomy that Sabah Umno was able to negotiate for seats with partner parties and to choose its candidates for the last state election.

But people are now asking whether the Umno leadership in Kuala Lumpur would allow such a luxury to Sabah Umno for GE15.

Umno insiders have told FMT that due to the complicated nature of seat negotiations for GE15, the party’s leadership felt the matter should be undertaken by headquarters.

They said the party leadership felt Umno would lose its collective strength in approaching the negotiations with partner parties if the states were allowed free rein on seat negotiations.

Political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi said it was likely that Umno headquarters would withdraw the autonomy pledge on seats and candidates by arguing that GE15 would be a race to elect a federal government and not a state government.

“Umno wants to contest 96 parliamentary seats, including the traditional seats that are held by those who have jumped ship,” he told FMT. “This means Umno wants to reinforce its intent to contest all its traditional seats.”

These would include seats in Sabah.

“The candidates to be selected would have to get their blessings from the central leadership because they would want to make sure no betrayal or party hopping occurs after they win.

“This will reinforce Umno’s strength and ensure a cleansing within the party before things become aggravated and are taken advantage of by trojan horses in the party.”

However, Awang Azman said it was unlikely that other autonomous powers, such as those concerning administrative matters, would be touched.

Another analyst, Arnold Puyok, said it would not look good on the party if Umno central pulled back on the full autonomy granted to Sabah Umno.

“This is because this autonomy is one of its selling points,” he told FMT.


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