Study: Umno defeat in KT caused by members’ spite

(The Malaysian Insider)  – As many as 3,000 Umno members or supporters in Kuala Terengganu may have abstained from voting during the recent by-election – in protest against the choice of Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh as the candidate, and as a result of factionalism in the state.

This startling information was thrown up during a study by Umno following the defeat of its candidate to Abdul Wahid Endut of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas) by 2,631 votes. Some 79 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote, down from the nearly 83 per cent during the general election in March 2008.

Umno officials were surprised at the lower turnout on Jan 17, believing that they would have retained the parliamentary constituency seat if their party members and supporters had come out in full force.

Even Pas had said any turnout more than 85 per cent would be in Umno’s favour.

Since then, an internal survey has shown that some members boycotted the polls because of factionalism in the party. They did not agree with the choice of Wan Ahmad Farid as the candidate because he was perceived to have been:

a) Unfriendly to Datuk Razali Ismail, the popular incumbent whose death from a heart attack made it necessary for the by-election to be called.

b) Close to former Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh. This was an issue with supporters of the current MB, Datuk Ahmad Said.

c) Aloof.

This is not the first time that Umno members have been prepared to see their candidates fail in an electoral contest with the Opposition over internal issues.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi blamed internal sabotage as one of the major reasons why seats fell to Pakatan Rakyat in the Malay heartland in Election 2008.

He noted that party members were unwilling to rally around candidates selected by the national leadership, preferring instead to show their displeasure by not voting for the Umno candidate or not going out to campaign.

Abdullah and other Umno leaders warned party members that if they continued to adopt this approach, the Opposition would continue to make inroads in territory held by Umno/Barisan Nasional.

The message was lost in Kuala Terengganu. And yet it could have been worse, much worse.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in a posting on his blog, said that he held back publishing a damning article on Abdullah and Umno in the run-up to the by-election for fear of being accused of influencing how the electorate voted. He posted the article six days after the by-election.

Dr Mahathir noted that Umno had lost its way, with members no longer putting the party’s struggle above everything else.  He took aim at his favourite target – Abdullah, rattling off a litany of accusations against him, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin and his team of advisors.

He noted that, under Abdullah, Umno had become so weak that other races were openly criticising the political party.

“After being chastised, Umno leaders apologise and bow down to their critics. On the other hand, when Umno members criticise other parties, they are suspended,” he said, referring to Penang Umno warlord Datuk Ahmad Ismail.

“All the signs point towards Umno being defeated and destroyed in the next general elections. Just because I was a former Umno leader does not mean that I must continue to support Umno,” he said. “Umno has now become a party owned by the corrupt.”

Imagine how damaging this article would have been if it had been posted a few days before the by-election.