Umno in dire need of change, says Ismail

(FMT) – Umno is in need of drastic changes or risks becoming disconnected from the younger generation, especially after its severe defeat at the last general election (GE15), says party vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He urged the Umno leadership to immediately draw up a strategy focusing on wooing young and first-time voters at the next general election, if it did not want the party to be ousted by the people “forever”, Utusan Malaysia reported.

“Umno needs a new image that isn’t detached from the youth.“If we don’t change, the youth that already rejected us (in GE15) will continue to reject us,” he was quoted as saying.

Ismail said GE15 saw about 4.5 million new voters on the electoral roll, with another 4.5 million expected at the next general election. He said if this group of voters rejected Umno, the party would lose out at the elections once again.

The former prime minister was referring to youths who are now eligible to vote after the law on lowering the voting age to 18 and automatic voter registration was passed in 2021.

Umno won only 26 parliamentary seats in GE15, marking its lowest-ever representation in the Dewan Rakyat.

The party has since announced a slew of dismissals and suspensions, with former Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin and former Selangor Umno chief Noh Omar sacked last month for breaching party discipline during GE15.

Former vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein and former information chief Shahril Hamdan were suspended for six years.

Commenting on this, Ismail said Umno was regressing and sent the wrong message to the youth by sacking and suspending a number of its leaders.

“We gave the wrong message, which is that Umno has no democracy. That is the current perception of the party,” he said.

Ismail said the youth wanted to see leaders such as Khairy, who were not afraid to criticise or speak up against the party.

He added that the youth also wanted to join a party that did not restrict their freedom.