GEORGE TOWN: Battle lines have been drawn between Umno and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia in Penang, with both parties adamant about fielding candidates for the same parliamentary and state seats.
State Umno chief Datuk Musa Sheikh Fadzir said more than 80% of Penang Umno divisions have rejected any cooperation with Bersatu and “we have to heed their call”.
“We are definitely looking into wresting back some of the Malay-majority seats that we lost to PKR in the last election and will only honour our pact with Muafakat Nasional by working with PAS.
“It is going to be a tough battle this time, but we are doubling our efforts and working with the grassroots to ensure we win the seats, ” he added.
The Umno-Bersatu split has thrown a spanner in the works after carefully laid plans were made to reclaim the last Malay bastion on the island – Balik Pulau.
Former Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad of Umno said Balik Pulau Bersatu chief Zolkifly Md Lazim had access to federal funds as an assemblyman; this could have been used by both parties to help the people.
“But Umno does not have such privileges as we have no elected representatives in the constituency.
“Umno’s strong membership and Bersatu funding could have made a difference in the coming election in Balik Pulau. But the split has disrupted all the plans, ” he said.
Muhammad Farid said Umno regards Balik Pulau as its “home base” on the island and losing all seats in the last election dealt a serious blow to its morale.
“PAS could be a deciding factor to win Balik Pulau back, depending on which party it aligns itself with here.
“We have 12,000 Umno members in Balik Pulau, PAS has 6,000 while Bersatu has slightly over 1,000.
“Umno definitely has an edge in campaigning, ” he said.
While the majority in Balik Pulau are Malays, the Chinese community there constitutes 35% of the population, he noted.
“Chinese votes went en bloc to Pakatan Harapan in the last election, but we don’t know where those votes will go next, ” said Muhammad Farid, a three-term assemblyman who lost Pulau Betong in 2018.
Zolkifly confirmed that there was no talk of cooperation with Umno.
“We plan to place Bersatu candidates in the one parliamentary and three state seats here.
“Our cooperation will only be with PAS and Gerakan. We will work hard to ensure we win, ” said the Teluk Bahang assemblyman.
Zolkifly (formerly of Parti Amanah Negara), Bertam assemblyman Khaliq Mehtab Mohd Ishaq (Bersatu) and Sungai Acheh assemblyman Zulkifli Ibrahim (formerly from PKR) switched camps from Pakatan to Perikatan Nasional last year.
Zolkifly and Zulkifli joined Bersatu when Perikatan took over the Federal Government.
State PKR acting chief and Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik asserts that Pakatan has grown stronger in Balik Pulau and is certain to win in the upcoming polls.
“We’re much more confident now as we have people on the ground. Folks are happy with the service by our assemblymen and me, ” he said.