KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's political party and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) on Wednesday (March 31) said they will work closely to face the next general election and rejected any "new alignment" of parties, in a rebuff of Umno.
The bold joint statement by Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS has led to talk that the Islamist party might abandon its ally Umno and bet its future with Bersatu instead.
"Bersatu and PAS will continue to strengthen cooperation in PN to face the 15th general election (GE15)," the statement by the two parties said on Wednesday (March 31).
The statement followed a Tuesday meeting between Mr Muhyiddin and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
"Bersatu and PAS, which are among the main founders of PN, will set up a committee at the central level to develop strategies and the direction of both parties for GE15, including seat negotiations," said the statement signed by the parties' secretaries-general.
"Bersatu and PAS will reject any new alignment to form a post-GE15 government, especially one which involves (opposition) Pakatan Harapan and its allies," it added.
Bersatu is the lead party in Malaysia's governing coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN), with PAS as a key member and Umno playing a major role in PN's formation last year.
But the constant turmoil in Malaysian politics has seen enemies turning allies overnight, and vice versa, since the 2018 general election.
Umno in its general assembly last weekend declared that it will abandon Bersatu and PN at the next polls.
PAS - which has a separate political tie-up with Umno under the Muafakat Nasional flag - has been trying in vain to gel the three Malay Muslim parties together.
The Bersatu-PAS statement followed a speech on Sunday by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the assembly, where he floated the idea of a "political reset" after the upcoming national polls.
He indicated that Umno is willing to see a new alignment with opposition parties to form the next government.
Zahid in fact went further in his speech by attacking PAS, with its chief, Datuk Seri Hadi, sitting on stage a few metres away as an invited guest to the assembly.
Zahid asked PAS to be an "honest and sincere" partner in the Umno-PAS political cooperation, instead of continuing to support PN.
"The political pact between Umno and PAS is based on mutual philosophy... We had agreed that any party in Muafakat Nasional shouldn't be too hasty to join any political pact," Zahid had said.
Interpreting the Bersatu-PAS statement, Johor Umno leader Shahrir Samad said PAS might leave Umno and work solely with Bersatu instead.
Datuk Shahrir said if this were to happen, Umno-led Barisan Nasional would face three-cornered fights in the general election for some seats, against both the opposition and the Bersatu-PAS alliance.