PETALING JAYA: Umno remains insistent that it wants early polls and will not be swayed by Opposition calls to delay the 15th General Election.

Political analysts, however, say any push for early elections will only be seen as a move to “rescue” senior party leaders who are facing court charges.

Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is arguing that delaying the polls will give the Opposition more space to craft strategies, double its propaganda, and increase political attacks against the Malay nationalist party.

“All of us in mainstream politics understand their acts. Don’t give the Opposition even an inch to destroy Umno,” he said in a Facebook post yesterday.

Ahmad Zahid, who is one of those facing charges, said that although Umno has a long history, it is now considered a new party as many veterans have left.

“Many have left the party and some have even chosen to go against Umno.

“But Umno continues to remain strong,” he added.

Umno is scheduled to have a special briefing today at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur with Ahmad Zahid, who is also Barisan Nasional chairman, giving an address.

Scores of supporters, division and grassroots leaders and the public are expected to be there.

The special briefing will be followed by an Umno supreme council meeting. This comes after the political bureau meeting late Wednesday night, which was attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

It has been reported that Umno leaders gave Ismail Sabri an ultimatum to call for early polls or face being sacked by the party.

Its secretary-general Datuk Ahmad Maslan, however, has dismissed such reports, saying the meeting went smoothly and “in a good environment” although members were saddened by the jailing of former president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib’s jailing after his guilty verdict was upheld in the RM42mil SRC International trial has put Umno in a quandary over the call for early elections, said Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun.

“If they choose… partly by calling for early elections, outsiders would perceive it as an attempt to ‘rescue’ the other senior party leaders from their legal troubles,” he said.

Senior fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Dr Azmi Hassan also said the Prime Minister was in a dilemma after Najib’s court case.

“He has been accused of not doing much in this case. But I think that it is his right (as Prime Minister),” he added.

However, he believed the calls for early elections by some leaders did not mean the party wanted to save those who were charged in court.

“I think most just want to take advantage of the current situation and to pull support,” Azmi said, adding that the calls were likely to grow louder.

The five-year mandate of the current government expires in July next year and GE15 must be held within 60 days of the dissolution of Parliament.