Dec 20, 2018
by Abdul Rahmat Omar
AHMAD Zahid Hamidi, who was until two days ago adamant on staying on to helm Umno, has finally stepped aside to allow his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, to lead the grand old party.
Ahmad Zahid was not seen to take charge after taking over the president’s seat from his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
His win in the party elections that secured his position is said to be due to three factors: that he is the continuation of Najib Razaks’s leadership (to which we have not seen any resemblance); that he had a strong social media team to bombard members with campaign materials at the eleventh hour before the votes were cast; and, allegations of vote-buying which had recently surfaced.
The sad bit is that Umno grassroots have been left without direction. Unlike Pakatan in previous elections, Umno per se did not organise ceramahs to win back the hearts and minds of voters after the loss. Instead, Zahid’s leadership hung on to a saying by Sun Tzu that the greatest strength is found in silence.
This silence further drove grassroot members and supporters in the Malay hinterland alike towards the arms of Pakatan Harapan (PPBM in particular) and Pas because they are the only Malay parties that are actually doing and saying something.
It is understandable with the comical nature of most of the government’s Cabinet members, staying silent watching the Pakatan-led government crumble due to its own doings is probably the best thing to do.
Umno and Barisan Nasional component party members do not have to do anything much except wait for the moment to give voters the “I told you so” comment.
But global economic conditions will change, and cabinet members will wise up. You can already see this in the likes of Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu.
Both are seen to be going on the ground to learn the ropes of their trade. Dr Dzul is streamlining the health policies to continue to make medical treatment affordable for both the people and the government, while Mohamad has formed the Armed Forces Veterans Council, a very much awaited move that has eluded the veterans who would like their voice on how they should be treated, heard.
Other than that, the Prime Minister has his Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) to act as a buffer as well as a damage-control council any time a Minister blurts out not-thoroughly-thought-of remarks.
Umno was left with 54 seats after the previous general election – the single party with the largest number of parliamentary seats. Fear of being taken legal action against, as well as the seemingly lack of direction from Zahid, saw Umno MPs jump to the other side.
For seven long months Umno under Zahid neglected the Malay strongholds – the kampungs and especially Felda.
Some 59 percent of Felda voters voted for the BN (UMNO), 24 percent for PAS, and 17 for PH (mainly PPBM). In the kampungs, BN (UMNO) retained 47 percent, 19 percent for PAS while PH garnered 34 percent.
Khor Yu Leng broke this down further in her article (The Edge Malaysia, 17 December 2018) to the states of Johor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan where the Felda districts are mostly located.
She found that in the Johor Felda districts, 70 percent of voters chose Umno while in the kampungs, both Umno and PH had 45 percent each. Pas trailed with only five percent.
Pas had support in the Pahang FELDA districts and kampungs where it received 35 and 25 percent of the votes respectively, while PH only received 10 and 25 percent. BN received 55 and 50 percent respectively.
However, both BN and Pas saw a huge decline in support from the Felda youth segments in both Negeri Sembiland and Johor.
With commodity prices declining rapidly and cost of living increasing rapidly, I fail to see the logic of staying silent waiting for the moon to fall into Umno’s lap.
I seriously do not understand why Umno hasn’t gone into the Malay hinterlands to take advantage of this.
I have always opined, again it is my opinion, that someone difficult to target such as Tengku Razaleigh should have been the Opposition Leader, while Mohamad Hasan look after the administration and management of Umno.
Ku Li is the president Umno almost had, while Mohamad Hasan’s approach is seen to be welcomed by the voters. Even Ahmad Maslan is consistent in his role as an opposition MP.
It is extremely important for Umno to see what the voters want, not just what it wants. Without the voters’ approval, there is no way for Umno to make any form of come back.
This talk of bringing Najib Razak back as the Opposition Leader should be stopped. His brand is a damaged brand and it is unlikely that the voters other than those in Pekan would like to see him back so soon at the helm of the country.
An Umno member might disagree, but if you ask any urban voter disenfranchised by Pakatan’s flip-flop policies, Najib is out of the question – at least for now.
Umno also needs to stop fielding heritage candidates like Ku Nan, Nazri Aziz to name a few. Start looking at the younger generation. We have a great deal of young voters who need fresh political air to breathe in. If Umno refuses to evolve, it will die.
Talking about young voters, something caught my eye that could be a breath of fresh air — that tea-chat session between Rafizi Ramli, Nurul Izzah and Khairy Jamaluddin. They could be the precursor to a third force.
In spite of their political leanings, the three are idealists, as are other younger politicians like MCA’s Chong Sin Woon, DAP’s Ong Kian Ming and PKR’s Wong Chen.
Imagine if they are to form their own party, both BN and PH would have a tough time holding on to their current seats in the next general election.
This is why Umno needs a total overhaul, do away with the little Napoleons and get idealistic younger candidates fielded.
But before then, send these potential candidates out to the Malay hinterlands and let them engage the voters there.
But that has to be done now. If Umno chooses to remain silent and wait for the heavens to fall into its lap, be forewarned that the heavens may float up, but they contain masses that may sink Umno into a great abyss from where it will never float to the surface again.