Rebel Umno branches may form new party

KUALA LUMPUR • A group of rebel Umno branches has floated the idea of forming a new political party involving former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and two leaders who were sacked on Friday, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

The proposed party, dubbed by the media as the 3M party - after their first names - could be led by Tun Dr Mahathir, who quit Umno in February, the Coalition of Malaysian Branch Chiefs (GKCM) said in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile, reflecting the realignment of Malaysian politics, jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim reminded his colleagues to set aside their differences following election defeats in a message from prison.

GKCM groups together some 70 Umno branches which are against the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Umno, Malaysia's biggest political party, has 20,000 branches.

The idea to form a new political party was raised after Datuk Seri Najib said yesterday that Umno deputy president Muhyiddin and former Kedah chief minister Mukhriz had been sacked for working with the opposition.

"GKCM will commence action. Umno is plagued by a serious loss of confidence," GKCM president Kamarul Azman was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news site.

A new political party arrayed against Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) will add to the ranks of the opposition, beset with infighting.

The opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) lost by-elections in Selangor and Perak two weeks ago to BN, as opposition support was split.

The bickering between PH and PAS has continued after the by-elections, and there is also infighting in Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat between those who are willing to work with Dr Mahathir and those who oppose him.

Anwar told the opposition to close ranks, and said there was still time to work on their weaknesses before the next general election, which is due in 2018.

"The opposition must look at this electoral outcome with humility, and take a hard look at our weaknesses. This is no time for excuses or blame," Anwar said in a statement issued through his lawyers, Malaysiakini said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'Rebel Umno branches may form new party'. Print Edition | Subscribe