KOTA KINABALU: While politicians argue about the relative popularity of Umno and its spinoff PPBM in Sabah, a political scientist points out that Umno has had a long affiliation with the state, but PPBM was considered to be only a political infant.
Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said Umno had been in Sabah since 1991 whereas PPBM has only been in the state for over a year.
“Umno has been through many political challenges since its entry and has grown tremendously but went into decline due to actions of its own leaders,” he told FMT.
“PPBM is only popular because it was led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad who became prime minister twice. But voters are now beginning to trust Umno again after the mass crossover of former leaders to PPBM as the party was able to hold a clean up and subsequently go through a rebranding process.
“This has opened room for younger leaders to come to the fore and directly shed the image of Umno being headed by old leaders.”
The popularity of the two parties was questioned by federal minister Abd Latiff Ahmad of PPBM who had said Umno was no longer popular in Sabah. He was reported to have later apologised for his remarks.
Awang Azman said Umno has grown after its loss of power in the 2018 general election, and many from PPBM were expected to return to Umno because the party has stronger grassroot support.
“Sabahans should realise that leaders can come and go but Umno will continue to exist as an important institution in this country,” he said.
Another analyst, Tony Paridi Bagang of Sabah UiTM, said Umno had been the nation’s political backbone since independence.
“In the Sabah context, the crossover of Umno leaders to PPBM after BN’s defeat is only part of the political dynamics in the state that could change in the blink of an eye. Popularity is not the basis for loyalty for political parties in Sabah,” he said.