JOHOR BARU - As many as 40 MPs from Umno may jump ship to a political party led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a senior aide to the premier said on Saturday (Oct 27).
At the other end of Malaysia's shifting political landscape, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will soon change its name as it tries to rebound from the drubbing at the May general election.
Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, was quoted by The Star news online as saying the matter regarding the 40 lawmakers was discussed during a leadership meeting of Tun Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Mr Kadir is also a supreme council member of PPBM, one of the four parties in Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition.
Mr Kadir said the 40 Umno MPs had met up with PPBM chairman Dr Mahathir and party president Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Home Minister.
"However, we have yet to make any decision about accepting them as our party members," Mr Kadir told reporters at a PPBM divisional meeting in Johor.
He said these Umno MPs must leave the party first and become independent lawmakers, before they could join PPBM.
The claim by Mr Kadir followed a decision by former Umno leader and Cabinet minister Mustapa Mohamed to join PPBM on Friday evening.
Datuk Seri Mustapa and five other Umno MPs left the party after the May national polls, when BN was toppled from power.
PPBM now has 14 MPs in the federal Parliament, including Mr Mustapa.
The claim by Mr Kadir was however pooh-poohed by Umno leader Khairy Jamaluddin.
"As far as I know there's nothing. I don't know where the number 40 came from," Mr Khairy, a lawmaker from Negeri Sembilan, told reporters, as quoted by Malay Mail online news. "Maybe I was not involved and wasn't invited."
Meanwhile, speaking at a separate function, Umno president Datuk Seri Zahid said it was time to change BN's name.
The BN coalition was formerly called Parti Perikatan, or Alliance Party, comprising the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).
The Alliance ruled Malaysia between 1957 to 1973, when its name was changed to BN. This followed the deadly 1969 race riots. BN's membership was expanded from the original three Alliance members.
"I suggest we change BN's name. The current opposition movement needs to be strengthened with the entry of new parties so we can win back the government in GE15 (next general election)," Mr Zahid said, as quoted by Malaysiakini news, as the annual assembly of the MIC.
BN shrank from having 13 parties under its umbrella, to five after the May polls - Umno, MCA, MIC, Indian-led myPPP and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah.
Mr Zahid said on Saturday that three small Indian parties are planning to join the Umno-led coalition. They are the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma), Barisan Kemajuan India Semalaysia (IPF) and Makkal Sakti.