PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the political organisation led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, will for the first time campaign for former rival Umno in a by-election.
An Umno candidate, Mohd Sharim Md Zain, is defending the party's stronghold Chini state-assembly seat in Pahang, against two independents in the Saturday (July 4) by-election, the first polls in Malaysia since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.
Chini is one of the four state seats under Pahang's Pekan parliamentary constituency, which is held by former prime minister Najib Razak.
Mr Mohd Shahrim is in a three-way fight with independent candidates Mohd Shukri Mohd Ramli and Tengku Datuk Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin. Tengku Zainul was a local Bersatu leader and has received endorsement from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was chairman of Bersatu until a bitter split in February.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Bersatu faction joined up with Umno and several other parties in late February to topple the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition that was governing Malaysia.
Bersatu, former MPs from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) led by Azmin Ali, Umno, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak are the main factions in the four-month-old Perikatan Nasional (PN) government led by Mr Muhyiddin.
But while Umno and PAS have formed a formal relationship to campaign together in elections and by-elections, Bersatu had been left out.
Mr Muhyiddin said on Tuesday that Bersatu's Pekan division will be mobilised to support Umno's local leader Mohd Shahrim Md Zain, who is standing under the Barisan Nasional flag.
"As the Bersatu president and Prime Minister of the country, I fully support the candidate that was decided by Barisan Nasional to stand in the Chini by-election," he said in a statement.
"To ensure the first victory for Perikatan, all grassroots of the Pekan Bersatu division will be mobilised to campaign for the candidate chosen by the coalition."
PM Muhyiddin also said that the campaign would be further strengthened by the presence of Bersatu's top leaders from throughout the country.
"The understanding and the maturity of the Perikatan parties to campaign as well as to share the political stage in the Chini by-election is a historic step towards the formation of this alliance as a strong and stable political coalition."
"As such, the victory for the Barisan candidate representing Perikatan in the Chini by-election will give a signal to all Malaysians about Perikatan's ability as a political coalition to work together to ensure that the people's welfare agenda and the country's progress will be successful," he said.
Umno and PAS have so far been lukewarm in allowing Bersatu to join their formal coalition, as all three parties would be fighting over the same Malay-Muslim constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.
The by-election in the Chini ward, which has 20,900 registered voters, is being held following the May 6 death of incumbent Umno assemblyman Abu Bakar Harun, 60, due to a heart attack.
In the 2018 General Election, Datuk Seri Abu Bakar retained the seat with a 4,622-vote majority, polling 10,027 votes to beat a PAS candidate who received 5,405 votes, and a candidate from PKR candidate who polled 1,065 votes.
The Chini by-election is the 11th by-election to be held since the 2018 national polls.
The 10th by-election was held in the Kimanis parliamentary constituency in Sabah, where Umno-BN defended the seat against a Sabah party allied to then ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan.