WHILE some analysts think UMNO could regain support, there seems to be no serious evidence to back it up.
In fact, Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong claimed that since the dissolution of Parliament on Oct 10, the UMNO-Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition “has not gained an inch of new ground”.
“UMNO president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi thought he was smart enough to trigger the election but his party has yet to gain much traction,” opined the much touted DAP strategist in his latest Facebook posting. “Voters are sensing that something is amiss.”
The DAP deputy secretary-general listed out five factors to support his observation:
Initially, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and his media advisors agreed with the public and the Opposition that elections should not be held during the flooding season. But they changed their mind.
The idea that UMNO pushes for snap polls for their own interests despite the warning of floods is now very ingrained in the minds of the voters. Clearly, voters don’t like what UMNO is doing.
- UMNO as the source of instability
UMNO’s main narrative is that stability would be restored with the return to the “golden era” of former PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak with UMNO being the dominant party with a super-majority.
But this argument does not hold water. Since 2018, UMNO has been the source of instability. It toppled the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and subsequently brought down the Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin government which UMNO was part of it.
- Not much money for UMNO’s election machinery
UMNO had not experienced campaigning without the full use of government machinery. While the caretaker PM is an UMNO man, civil servants are more careful in openly siding with UMNO. No one is certain who will form the next government.
During the 2013 and 2018 general elections, UMNO was essentially oiled by Najib’s money which he siphoned off from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). Since Najib is in jail and faces massive fines while Zahid doesn’t have that much cash for GE15, the party is facing financial problems now.
“I suspect even if Ismail Sabri’s faction may have some funds – with no guarantee of becoming PM again – they are unlikely to spend much,” reckoned the former deputy defence minister. “So the UMNO machinery which knows only the rule of ‘money talks’ is suddenly devoid of the resources they previously enjoyed.”
- UMNO’s internal strife
UMNO has been split along the line of “court cluster” versus “minister cluster” since the Sheraton Coup in 2020. The next two weeks will see epic battles as the UMNO candidates are decided.
Zahid had openly announced his intention to nominate 70% new faces. Given that UMNO’s structure concentrated heavily at the divisional level, there are many divisional warlords. Some of them started in the 1980s during the first stint of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s premiership.
Some of today’s UMNO divisional leaders were youth chiefs when Najib was elected youth chief in UMNO’s most acrimonious party election in 1987. They provided the loyalty Najib craves for. These warlords kept Najib afloat within UMNO when he lost ground throughout 2015 to 2018.
It would be extremely difficult for Zahid to remove old faces and field 70% new faces in GE15 without sabotages, boycotts, and upheavals which will in turn affect UMNO’s performance in the general elections.
- Voters’ fear of Zahid becoming PM
“I have yet to meet a Malaysian who thinks that Zahid would be a good PM,” observed the state assemblyman for Perling. “Most polls over the last several years have shown that 40% Malays loved Najib while another 40% hated him. There was hardly any middle ground. Zahid couldn’t even match Bossku’s (moniker for Najib) popularity.”
Zahid’s recent remarks at the MIC annual general assembly which exposed his true intention of calling for GE15 during flood season merely to save BN leaders from corruption charges has not helped UMNO’s cause at all.
Hence, the possibility of Zahid not even contesting in GE15. “I don’t rule out any possibilities – no matter how strange they are – in politics. However, I believe Zahid would want to be PM himself,” deduced Liew.
“He won’t trust any other UMNO leaders to free him from jail. Hence, it is clear that Ismail Sabri is just BN’s poster boy and nothing beyond.”
Added Liew: “With Zahid as the face of UMNO, many Malaysians are worried. Hence, UMNO has not gained any new ground since the dissolution of Parliament two weeks ago.” – Oct 24, 2022
Main photo credit: Bernama