Tough for Umno to move as one, analysts say 

(The Malaysian Insider) – Umno’s faithful broke from their final pre-polls huddle last night clearly spirited and re-energised but there was little they gained from the four-day meet, analysts have said, noting that the assembly witnessed nothing more than chest-thumping and finger-pointing rhetoric from party delegates.

The only significant takeaway from the assembly for those in attendance, however, was party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s unity message last night and his repeated reminders for members to stay united and to point their knives outward ― towards the enemy ― rather than at internal rivals.

It was a message that was driven home to the hilt, particularly with the country hurtling so quickly forward to the next general election, which must be called by next April.

“We must say, declare with loud voices that… even if I am not chosen, I will fully support the candidate chosen by Umno and [Barisan Nasional],” the prime minister had said in his closing speech at Umno’s 66th general assembly.

A loud chorus of approval came in response, and shouts of “Can!” rocked the cavernous Dewan Merdeka here as delegates clambered to declare their unity.

But their enthusiasm and the tears of emotion that poured down some faces when Najib led them into prayer later, may not be enough for Umno to score the win it so badly needs at the ballot boxes.

For one, although Najib and his team have been working tirelessly to transform and reinvent Umno in the past four years, it is difficult to say if the party’s grassroots, who form the majority of its over three million members, have followed in the party president’s steps.

This was most apparent during the assembly, when party delegates employed the same opposition-bashing tactics of past meets, despite Najib’s advice to offer fresh ideas for the future, instead of dwell on past mistakes.

In his policy speech when opening the assembly, Najib had said that Malaysia’s voter demographics had changed radically over the past few decades and the youth now made up a significant portion of the electorate.

He told delegates that voters today are a more discerning, critical and technology-savvy bunch who would want to see what the government could offer for their future instead of reminisce on past successes.

But Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) political analyst Professor Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff told The Malaysian Insider that despite this clear message from Najib, there was little mentioned during debates on future reforms and fresh policies that the BN lynchpin could offer the future generation of Malaysians.

“From the news, (I) see no direction taken; I only saw endless criticisms against the opposition,” he said.

The academician agreed that this was clear indication that while Najib and his team of leaders have taken giant leaps forward in their transformational process, much of the party remained behind.

“The assembly this time did not bring forward the transformation in Umno that the president has promised.

“The hall was merely filled with sentiments and emotion,” Agus added.

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