Zahid blamed for pre-GE15 rift in BN

Two analysts blame Barisan Nasional chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for the discord in the coalition that they say partly caused its poor showing in the recent general election.

(FMT) – James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute and Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara told FMT it was Umno’s decision to drop several big names from the polls that sparked division in BN before GE15.

Chin said these big names, many of them party warlords and winnable candidates, were replaced with Zahid’s supporters. “That’s the main reason why Umno lost in GE15. It’s self-inflicted damage.”

“Voters could see that Umno was not so strong, was divided, and that the candidates chosen by the president or Supreme Council only represented one group in the party,” he said.

“This is one of the primary reasons why Malay voters felt uneasy about voting for Umno. So they voted for the other side, Perikatan Nasional or PAS, more specifically.”

Umno Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki has attributed BN’s poor GE15 outing to disunity in the coalition, saying its leaders were taking potshots at one another.

But there is also fear of disunity in Umno itself. Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan and Wanita Umno chief Noraini Ahmad recently spoke against allowing the top two posts in the party to be contested to avoid rifts in the party.

However, the two analysts said disallowing contests for the Umno president and deputy president’s posts in the party elections would do nothing to address disunity.

Azmi said doing so would in fact widen the rifts. He said Umno should encourage challenges for the top two posts.

He also believed that Zahid and Mohamad’s positions in the party were secure.

“I’m sure they can defend their posts easily. They have a huge leverage with their positions in the unity government. The perception is that anyone challenging them for the top two posts is indirectly challenging Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister.

“Let there be contests for the posts because the incumbents will retain them and the challengers will be very quiet after that,” he said.

Chin said Zahid would want no contest for his post to ensure the stability of the government. However, he said, there were probably factions in Umno wanting the party and BN to align with Perikatan Nasional.

“If Zahid is going to be challenged, it will be by someone who believes Umno should not have supported Anwar. That’s why he needs a no-challenge resolution,” he said.

There have been several calls for the Umno presidency and deputy presidency to be contested in the party elections, which must be held before May 19.

The Umno Supreme Council has yet to decide on this.