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What is Zahid's game plan?

TIMING is important in politics. Failure to act at the most opportune time can lead to others grabbing the opportunity.

This is the dilemma facing Umno, according to analysts, and the party needs to decide whether it wants to survive or be buried for a long time.

Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Thursday made a puzzling statement, saying the party won't join Perikatan Nasional (PN), but will continue to support the government.

What is Zahid hoping to achieve? That's a question many are wondering.

Sources in Putrajaya claimed that Zahid was worried when he found out there is a possibility that Pas and a few Barisan Nasional (BN) parties would leave Umno to join PN.

Yesterday, the New Straits Times quoted a Bersatu Supreme Council member who claimed that "two top BN component parties" have agreed to leave Umno and join PN.

According to the member, the BN parties were drawn to PN's commitment to ensure all members in PN are equal partners.

One source in the administration told the NST that Pas is also keen on joining PN as "some Pas leaders are worried that they might be stepped on by Umno again".

"Pas was with BN for only six years (from 1972 to 1978). Pas leaders remember how they were treated then and due to this, Pas is wary of Umno, which is why their Muafakat Nasional (MN) cooperation is not a formal coalition. It's an understanding," the source said.

If this is true, political analyst Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said Umno will not be able to survive, not without Pas and its BN allies.

"Not only will Umno not be able to survive without Pas and BN parties, it will also be broken if it cannot handle its own crisis," he said, referring to talk about certain Umno members of parliament being unhappy with Zahid's statement.

Analyst Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian warned that without Pas, Umno's nightmare in 2018, where it lost the general election, would come back to haunt the party.

"Now, Umno's collaboration with Pas is being tested, and they perform better with Pas present.

"Without Pas, it may go back to how it was in 2018 (contesting the same seats, which led to three-cornered fights)," he said.

A cabinet member said it's time Umno leaders and members woke up from their "obsession with personalities" and go back to its roots: championing the struggles for country, religion and race.

"(Science, Technology and Innovation Minister) Khairy Jamaluddin spoke words of wisdom when he told Umno to move on after (former prime minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak was convicted (on Tuesday).

"The courts punished Najib. Umno members should accept it and work to strengthen the party instead of wasting their time being Najib's fanatics," the cabinet member said.

Despite PN's invitation to join the soon-to-be formal coalition, Zahid instead said Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia is keen on joining MN, but Bersatu secretary-general Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the party is considering MN's invitation. Nothing is set in stone.

When asked what will Bersatu do if Umno continues along its present path, another cabinet member said the party is "not that worried as Bersatu has other options".

Asked if the options included replacing Umno with PKR, the cabinet member said: "Your guess is as good as mine."

Umno has 39 MPs and PKR has 38.

There is talk that PKR is in discussions with Bersatu about joining PN, but can the reformasi party compromise, especially on its prime ministerial candidate and seat allocation?

A Bersatu insider said PKR should consider joining PN if the party is serious about reforms.

"Najib's conviction proves PN is serious about the rule of law and reforms. PN and PKR can work together. I don't know what PKR is waiting for," the insider said.

Indeed, timing is everything in politics.

Being decisive and grabbing an opportunity when it presents itself is vital for any party.

As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War: "Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays."

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