July 3, 2018
By Abdul Rahmat Omar
UMNO’s first elections that saw the election of both party president and deputy president, uncontested since 1988, have come and gone.
The results showed that while Umno members want to move forward, there are those that have not moved on from the Najib Razak-era.
Not that I believe Najib was a bad president and Prime Minister – he certainly did a lot of good during his nine-year premiership, but to continue to dwell in that era means pushing aside voters’ opinion and confidence in the Grand Old Party.
I have nothing against him but currently, in the eyes of voters, his brand was ruined because it was not managed.
There are still those who expect Datuk Seri Najib Razak to lead in opposing the ruling coalition, forgetting that whatever statement, post or tweet that comes from the former premier is just from another division head who is also just another member of Parliament.
Those holding party posts before and after the Umno elections are the ones who should be making those statements instead.
I have been engaging pro-Barisan Nasional supporters from the 21-45-year-old group since the end of the sixth government. Many love Umno and BN but voted against it just to see Najib and a few others out.
When asked to see the rationale behind Najib’s explanation on the issues that dog him, still, they responded by saying they are not at all interested in the explanation.
To them, the issues should not have appeared at all. It was a matter of lost trust, and little was done to regain that trust until it was all too late.
To make things worse, amongst the elected to hold party posts are those whose conduct caused the downfall of their respective states.
It is sad to see members of parliament who contested under the BN ticket leave because they lost the party election.
There may be personal reasons for them to leave, which is mainly the matter of the pocket, but they must remember that they were voted in not just by BN people but also the general voters who wanted to see BN win.
You may survive betraying the party but whether you will survive your voters’ wrath come the next election for betraying their trust and mandate remains to be seen.
It is equally sad to see those who say that they want to help the party regain its strength and former status play the blame game when they lose their bid for a party position.
Such is the nature of elections – there will be winners as there will be losers. But an election was what’s needed for Umno to move forward.
Without a clear mandate from its members, it would have been difficult for the party leadership to effectively assume its role as the leading opposition party when the next Parliament sits.
The question is, who should be leading in Parliament?
To answer that question, Umno really needs to think out of the box. As mentioned above, the party needs to regain the trust, especially of those who voted against the BN not because they hated the coalition, but just to oust Najib Razak.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, although an Umno man through and through, is labelled a Najib-man by the outsiders, while both Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Khairy Jamaluddin are labelled as proxies of Mahathir.
There is a great need for Umno to now separate the party president from the job of opposition leader in Parliament.
Zahid promised before the Umno elections that he would implement the two-term ruling for presidents should he win the post.
His two terms, if he makes it past the first, would end in 2024, a year after the next general election.
In my opinion, he should just concentrate on managing and making sure Umno remains cohesive and discuss with friendly parties on the possibility of forming a strong coalition for the next general election.
Zahid is also now the subject of an investigation, therefore he should not be considered for the opposition leader job, nor should he be considered as the PM-in-waiting.
Ku Li is the president that Umno almost had back In April 1987. He became part of the opposition once when he formed Semangat 46 following the dissolution of Umno in 1988. Whether Ku Li still has the fire in him to lead the opposition in Parliament, remains to be seen.
Khairy is the favourite candidate where non-Umno members are concerned. But in the eyes of party members, he failed to get the votes of the youth for BN when he was the Minister for Youth and Sports.
His statements to the media regarding Najib and later blaming Umno “warlords” for his loss in his bid for the party presidency show immaturity and a penchant for blaming others for his failures.
If he is still serious about wanting to help strengthen the party, he should become the opposition’s whip rather than the leader. I don’t see any of the two MP vice-presidents as being capable to lead the opposition either.
Therefore, Umno is now left with the task of finding someone to lead the opposition in Parliament.
Perhaps, it needs to look at the ranks of its supreme council members who are members of parliament, and it needs to do so quickly before the next parliament sits.