KUALA LUMPUR - Umno's three wings made clear to the party's top brass on Saturday (March 27) that the best teammate for fresh polls expected later this year is former nemesis Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), rejecting partnerships with other suitors with prime ministerial ambitions.
Cutting ties with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) was a common theme across speeches at the general assemblies of Umno's Youth, Women and Puteri (young women) wings.
There were also clear calls to reject Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's courtship of Umno. Datuk Seri Anwar is keen to work with Umno to boost his aim of becoming Malaysia's prime minister.
"To PAS, our comrades and friends in Muafakat Nasional, hold fast to our ties. Don't let it break or be broken by a third party because we don't know when an opportunity like this will come again," Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said in a speech at the launch of the wing's annual meeting.
Umno ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years with its partners in the Barisan Nasional coalition, until it was defeated by the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition in the 2018 General Election.
Umno is now a member of the governing Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance. But it has been at loggerheads with Bersatu, PN's lead party, as Umno sees itself playing second fiddle in government.
Umno had also signed the "Muafakat Nasional" (MN) charter with PAS to work together and champion Malay and Muslim interests.
But severing ties with Bersatu could mean the end of Umno's alliance with PAS as the Islamist party is a founding member of Tan Sri Muhyiddin's formally registered PN coalition, meaning it will campaign alongside Bersatu at the next election.
PAS has repeatedly insisted that all three parties should team up to ensure a Malay Muslim-dominated government is formed after the polls.
"We want to be united to face the general election," PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang told reporters on Friday. His party's chiefs have previously said they would act as mediators between Umno and Bersatu to avoid multi-cornered fights.
The Umno Women's chief Noraini Ahmad said in her policy speech on Saturday that while Umno and Bersatu are sharing power, they have different dreams.
"We insist that the party leadership stays firm in ensuring that Umno dominates," Datuk Seri Noraini said.
Mr Muhyiddin on March 1 said he will call for national polls once the coronavirus pandemic has been tamed.
The Malaysian King, with advice from PM Muhyiddin, declared an emergency for the country on Jan 12 to deal with the pandemic, but the move was met with sharp criticism.
Detractors say the emergency, which led Parliament to be suspended, was a ploy to allow Mr Muhyiddin to stay in power given his wafer-thin parliamentary majority.
Joining in the chorus of asking Umno to withdraw from supporting Bersatu once Parliament is dissolved, Umno's Puteri chief Zahida Zarik Khan on Saturday labelled Bersatu a parasitic plant and questioned the need for Umno to act as a "fertiliser" for it.
"Bersatu grows from the seeds that originated from Umno's tree. It survived only because it obtained nutrients from DAP and PKR," she said, referring to opposition parties Democratic Action Party and Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Datuk Seri Anwar.
"For us, 'no DAP, no PKR' is a done deal. It cannot be disputed and I agree with this (to sever ties) 100 per cent," she added.
In his winding-up speech at the one-day meeting of the three wings, Umno's election director Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said the party respects PAS' right to be with Bersatu in facing the next polls. But Umno hopes that PAS leaders will remember their vow when signing the MN pact to be together at the next election.
Umno on its own, Datuk Seri Tajuddin said, will contest 120 seats. But with the Islamist party as ally Umno will compete 96 and leaving 24 to PAS.
"PAS will win more than the 18 they have. We will form the MN government (together), this is the party stand. We reject Bersatu but we are together with PAS in MN," he added.
In an interview with Utusan Malaysia daily this week, Umno's deputy president Mohamad Hasan said the party is confident of winning 70 to 80 seats at the next general election.