‘Umno shouldn’t bet on early polls’

Political analysts are questioning Umno’s decision to encourage Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for a general election early following the party’s and Barisan Nasional’s return to power in the Melaka state election.

(NST) – Political expert Dr Oh Ei Sun said Umno publicly calling for an early general election spoke volumes about the factionalism festering within the party.

He said he believed the political play would unlikely be a confrontation between the ruling government and Pakatan Harapan as they had signed a memorandum of understanding on transformation and political stability.

Rather, it is the simmering rivalry between those within Umno who are loyal to the mainstream Najib-Zahid (Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) faction on the one hand and those who loosely rally around the PM (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob), who ironically derives the bulk of his support from Bersatu (Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia),” he said.

He said Umno would seek to call the shots by calling for the polls to be held soon to allow party president Zahid, who can still sign candidate appointment letters, to consolidate support and give supporters important political positions.

“It doesn’t hurt that Umno is likely to sweep most of the seats it contests if polls are held soon as Malay voters’ sentiments are still very much with the party.”

He said low voter turnout benefited BN, as was evident in the Melaka state election, which had a turnout of 68.85 per cent.

He said this encouraged BN to call for a general election.

“PH is not likely to replicate its 2018 (general election) win and PN (Perikatan Nasional) is likely to pick up some seats from PH, but not so much from BN.”

Political analyst Dr Azmi Hassan said based on the outcome of the Melaka polls, it was obvious why Umno and BN were clamouring for an early general election.

However, he said, it was unclear whether the win in the Melaka polls would translate to a win in a general election.

He said Umno and BN should be very cautious, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet under control and as new virus variants emerge.

“They (BN and Umno) need to be more careful not to use the Melaka election as a reason to pursue the call (for an early general election). I think they need to use other means.

“I think using the outcome of the Melaka election as the sole reason to call for an early GE15 (15th General Election) will backfire on the party.”

Political analyst Dr Ainul Adzellie Hasnul said while BN’s intention to strike the iron while it was hot was understandable, a lot of work was needed to capture voters nationwide.

He said BN’s success in Melaka, which was once its stronghold, was an insufficient indicator of the people’s acceptance of a general election.

“Time and effort should be put in to gauge the sentiments of young voters, especially following the implementation of Undi 18.

“Other factors to be considered are the ongoing court cases of prominent politicians and the global scene involving both the economy and health sectors.

“Also, the government can’t afford public backlash should there be a surge in Covid-19 cases due to elections just as the economy is on the path of recovery with many sectors operating at full capacity.”