KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his party will not work with Malaysia's opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the next general election and dismissed claims that both parties have discussed such cooperation.
He said Umno will be working only with its fellow component parties under the Barisan Nasional banner in the coming polls, and any potential pact with PKR will only be explored after the election.
His comments came after PKR president Anwar Ibrahim said last Tuesday (March 16) that he had met several Umno leaders to discuss possible political cooperation although they have yet to come to a decision.
But Zahid indicated there had been no deliberate discussions on the matter with Opposition Leader Anwar.
"Yes, Anwar and I have bumped into each other at Parliament (and) at weddings, but no discussions at all, be it formally or informally.
"Not with me, not with Mat Hassan (Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan)," said Zahid in an interview ahead of the Umno general assembly, which will be held from March 27 to 28.
Asked if any Umno leader had met Datuk Seri Anwar on this, he said: "You should ask him who he had discussions with, but Umno has not authorised any representative to hold such talks.
"Umno has been part of the Barisan coalition since it was formed in 1973 and has since contested under its banner in every election.
On Feb 19, Umno made it known that the party would not cooperate with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in the next election and that the current cooperation would end when Parliament was dissolved.
On whether Umno is willing to explore cooperating with PKR, Zahid said that anything is possible after the next general election.
"But for now, there is no discussion, not with PKR, not with DAP, not with Pakatan Harapan," he reiterated.
Umno had ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years with its partners in the Barisan coalition until they were defeated by the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition in the 2018 General Election.
The party is now a member of the current governing Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance, led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. But Umno has been at loggerheads with Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Bersatu, which leads the 12-party PN.
Barisan is currently made up of four parties - Umno, the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian Indian Congress and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah.
On March 17, Mr Anwar said "initial discussions" between PKR and Umno leaders had taken place but there was no agreement nor formal understanding.
"I have already said it would be premature to indicate any possibility of cooperation or agreement. At this stage, we are discussing," Mr Anwar was quoted as saying.
As for Umno's cooperation with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Zahid said both parties were still working together in the spirit of Muafakat Nasional.
"But it is up to them. If they feel that they are more comfortable working with other parties, they can proceed to do so, " he said.
PAS and Umno formed Muafakat Nasional coalition in 2019, but it is also a member of the PN coalition with Bersatu and three other parties.
Mr Muhyiddin had on March 1 promised to hold the general election to end the political upheaval that has rocked his government since he came to power without an election one year ago, once the coronavirus pandemic is over.