Umno’s election strategy according to Finance Twitter

In preparation to go solo without PAS, its sole partner in the glorified “Muafakat Nasional”, an alliance set up in Sept 2019 under the pretext of “Malay Unity”, Zahid said UMNO will amend the Federal Constitution to “empower” Shariah law. To do that, however, UMNO must win back its super two-thirds majority, which it lost in the 2008 General Election under Abdullah Badawi administration.

It was a clever trick to steal some Islamic thunder from PAS and at the same time, lure Malays to vote for BN in droves. You can expect UMNO to hammer PAS during the coming election campaign of how the latter had failed to defend the Malays, Muslims and Islam because it conveniently forgot to push for “RUU 355”, popularly known as a new Hudud Law.

But UMNO knew it can never win back its super two-thirds majority. It also has very little appetite to chopping people’s hands and legs, as envisioned by PAS extremists. It just wants to create a false perception that UMNO can be as Islamic, if not more, than PAS. As foreign investors flee the country at industrial scale, UMNO understood the consequences of creating a Taliban government.

Therefore, despite its announcement of “No PPBM, No Anwar, No DAP”, UMNO could do exactly the opposite of what it preaches. Zahid said negotiations with other parties would only happen when UMNO becomes dominant again after the general election. The UMNO president also stressed that UMNO must win as many seats as possible to regain its dominance.

So, the game plan is very clear. Its strategy is to go solo, preferably but not necessarily with PAS, and win the lion’s share of parliamentary seats. UMNO hopes to repeat – at least – the 2013 General Election’s victory, where it won 88 seats. As a coalition, the UMNO-led Barisan won 133 seats, allowing it to form the government even though it won less popular vote than the opposition.

The worst-case scenario is for UMNO to do as badly as the 2018 General Election, where it captured only 54 seats. But even then, the party won the most seats comparatively. The BN won 79 seats, less than Opposition Pakatan Harapan’s 113 seats, hence lost power for the first time in history. But UMNO does not believe the disastrous performance will repeat itself.

Based on 2008, 2013 and 2018 election results, UMNO thinks it could win between 79 and 88 seats optimistically, and between 54 and 79 seats conservatively. Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR had won 31 seats (2008), 30 seats (2013) and 47 seats (2018). This means if UMNO and rival PKR joined forces to eliminate their common enemy – Bersatu – they could easily form the next government.

Recently, UMNO election director Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said that his party will contest 120 seats in the next election, but with PAS, UMNO is willing to contest just 96 seats. This means PAS will get the crumbs of only 24 Malay-majority seats, just an extra 6 seats of what it won in 2018. That’s why UMNO believes it could win between 79 and 88 seats optimistically.

However, in a three-cornered contest – Barisan Nasional (BN) vs. Perikatan Nasional (PN) vs. Pakatan Harapan (PH) – UMNO’s chances will be greatly reduced without PAS, largely because a split of Malay votes will benefit PH, not to mention UMNO does not control the national coffers. To increase its chances, UMNO has to work “behind the scene” with opposition PH to make it essentially a two-cornered contest.

The easiest way is for everyone to contest the seats they won in 2018. That would mean UMNO, PKR, DAP and Amanah are guaranteed to contest and win their 54 seats, 47 seats, 42 seats and 11 seats respectively – bringing the total to 154 seats, more than two-thirds majority in the Parliament. It would be either BN fights PN or PH fights PN – both BN and PH take turns to slaughter PN.

UMNO will most likely get to contest the lion’s share of the 13 seats won by PPBM in 2018, all of which are Malay-majority constituencies. That would push UMNO’s medal tally to 67 seats. The party must realize that the tag-team of PPBM-PAS will do more harm to UMNO than to Opposition PH simply because all the Malay-based parties – UMNO, PPBM and PAS – are fishing in the same pond.

Zahid’s master plan, with endorsement from Najib, is to hopefully win enough seats to form a government with allies in Sabah and Sarawak, failing which PH coalition will come in make up the numbers. DAP may or may not be part of a unity government consisting of BN and PH, depending on the final election results and whether PKR will sell out DAP and Amanah.

DAP, which is expected to maintain its current 42 seats, may be needed to get the required two-thirds majority to amend the Constitution. By hook or by crook, UMNO wants to restore its dominance and reclaim the powerful prime minister position, even if it means working with DAP in the aftermath of the next election. For now, UMNO can safely scream “No PPBM, No Anwar, No DAP” just to satisfy its grassroots.

The UMNO president talked about political reset, unity government, political stability, negotiations post-election, regain dominance, honesty of allies, and whatnot. Connects the dots and it’s not hard to see how BN and PH could unexpectedly form a government. But there’s one problem – will all the UMNO warlords obey their weak president, Zahid Hamidi?