PENANG Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has asked the question on many people’s minds: whether UMNO can reinvent itself in the near future and regain its past glory.
More importantly, the Perai assemblyman wondered if there was a future for the party that was once thought to be irreplaceable, and if Pakatan Harapan (PH) can count on the Barisan Nasional (BN) linchpin to deliver the much-needed support from Malay voters.
“No one could have imagined that UMNO would go down so fast and so dramatically. Until the onset of the 15th general election (GE15) in Nov 2022, UMNO was the main contender for political power,” Ramasamy pointed out.
“There was a sense on both sides of the political divide that BN [through UMNO] was unstoppable, having captured state power in Melaka and Johor a few months before GE15 in the state polls.”
Ramasamy noted that once the results of the state polls were announced, there was very little confidence going around that “anything could be done to halt the juggernaut that is BN/UMNO from ascendency”.
“However, GE15 gave UMNO a big jolt. It was something that was totally unprecedented in the political history of the country – BN’s winnings were reduced to a mere 30 parliamentary seats while Bersatu together with PAS appeared to be the biggest winner of Malay votes,” he remarked.
“While PH came through with 82 parliamentary seats, the coalition only won 10% of support from the Malays. Perikatan Nasional (PN) with Pas obtained more than 50% of Malay votes, therefore clearly and unequivocally establishing the truth that Malays had deserted their once-champion UMNO.
“To prevent its own demise, UMNO’s only option was to join forces with PH in forming the unity government.”
Ramasamy went on to note that whether UMNO will be able to deliver Malay votes in the coming state elections remains to be seen.
He said since the state polls are only a few months away, it would be miracle on UMNO’s part to be able to re-establish its credentials with the Malays.
“The green wave that started with GE15 remains unabated, thus making it difficult for UMNO to make inroads based on its old strategy,” he opined.
“The problem is not the Malays but the level of corruption that had permeated UMNO especially among certain key leaders, with some of them having court cases.
“PAS and Bersatu were able to successfully gain Malay support simply because they zeroed in on corruption to wrest away Malay support from UMNO.”
Ramasamy further argued the very fact that UMNO is forming the unity government with PH might not have endeared the party to the Malays, thus posing problems in the coming state elections.
“I am not sure how UMNO can be reinvented to gain favour with the Malays without the corresponding initiative to cleanse the party of corruption and abuse of power,” he asserted.
“In this respect, the presence of certain key UMNO leaders with corruption charges pending in court would be something like the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
“It is not that I am predicting the collapse of UMNO in the near future but maybe the party that was formed in the mid-1940s has outlived its usefulness like other grand old parties in other countries.”
Ramasamy noted that UMNO’s dwindling power is not really due to its longevity but “internal problems that were allowed to grow without effective leadership”.
“This lack of proper leadership with their indulgence in corruption and abuse of power sowed the seeds of dissension within UMNO and its alienation from rank and file,” he reckoned.
“It was just a matter of time before UMNO came to be challenged by political parties that sought to wrest away the Malay support on grounds of race and religion. In fact, UMNO itself became the victim of the strategy of race and religion.
If only UMNO had remodelled itself on broader platform at some point in history, things might be different but at the end of the day, its racial methodology became its own political entrapment in the long run.” – Jan 5, 2023
Main pic credit: Bernama