Of Zahid’s ‘self-denial’ vs Tok Mat’s gracious acceptance of UMNO’s Kemaman by-election defeat

WHETHER this is merely a display of leadership style or a matter of personal opinion, there is somehow a contrast in how the two top UMNO leaders perceive the party’s defeat in the Kemaman parliamentary by-election over the last weekend (Dec 2).

Party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (main pic, left) is seemingly reluctant to accept UMNO’s defeat as a form of referendum after having recently described Kemaman as a strong UMNO fortress or stronghold.

“We cannot consider it a referendum because of a small cocoon in Kemaman. How could 141,000 voters in Kemaman be considered a referendum?” Bernama cited the Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman as saying in response to PAS secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan who claimed that the referendum favours the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.

“So, we hope they (PAS) don’t try to dream during the daytime,” the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) retaliated, denying an increase in the support for PAS candidate Datuk Seri Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar (who is also the Terengganu Menteri Besar) while further revealing that about 10,000 hardcore UMNO voters did not turn out to vote.

For the record, Samsuri who is also the PAS vice-president polled 64,998 votes to win with a majority of 37,220 votes against UMNO’s candidate Raja Mohamed Affandi who only managed to secure 27,778 votes.

Such tally contrasted the 15th General Election (GE15) outcome when the then UMNO-BN candidate Datuk Seri Ahmad Said (who was also the former Terengganu MB) obtained 38,355 votes against the PAS candidate Che Alias Hamid who polled 65,714 votes (recall that Che Alias’ victory was annulled by the Kuala Terengganu Elections Court on Oct 3).

UMNO-Barisan Nasional candidate Raja Mohamed Affandi (left) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the run-up to the Dec 2 Kemaman parliamentary by-election

Interestingly, UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan (Tok Mat) (main pic, right) was more gracious in his acceptance of UMNO’s defeat, attributing it as “a clear signal on a few matters and trends”.

The party’s mouthpiece UMNO Online listed the Defence Minister’s forward-looking view with four reasons:

  • UMNO is still far from succeeding in restoring the Malays’ trust in it. UMNO still lost despite fielding a national hero (Raja Mohamed was a former army general) with a very outstanding service record.
  • The by-election outcome has made UMNO aware that it needs to possess resilience to soldier on in the increasingly dynamic Malay political arena.
  • UMNO continues to be shunned by the Malay youths by not being able to ‘resonate’ with the younger generation till the rejection of that group towards UMNO has become more and more consistent.
  • Kemaman also provides guidance that balancing racial and religious politics is difficult and complex.

Like it or not, the contrast in how the two top UMNO leaders view the outcome of the Kemaman by-election will shed light as to how the oldest party in the country will be able to revive its very much scarred reputation to win back the faith of its supporters in light of more and more Malays are swinging towards the ‘green side’.

Above all else, a re-vitalised UMNO is essential as its ally Pakatan Harapan (PH) needs a formidable partner given the unity government is facing challenges of its own with its ‘not so convincing’ one-year report card. – Dec 6, 2023

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