UMNO’s no-contest motion: A desperate move or an abuse of power?

UMNO – the grand old party – is making headlines for all the wrong reasons again, this time for its recent decision to approve a no-contest motion for its top leadership positions.

Mahathir Mohd Rais, Federal Territories’ information chief of Perikatan Nasional (Focus Malaysia) 

The move has sparked outrage and criticism from Malaysians who value democracy, transparency and accountability.

On the one hand, UMNO’s leaders and some fanatic supporters have tried to defend the no-contest resolution by claiming that it is a necessary and pragmatic step to ensure stability and unity within the party, especially in times of political turmoil and uncertainty.

They argue that the no-contest motion is a sign of UMNO’s consensus and strength, and that the Registrar of Societies (ROS) has approved it.

But Malaysians who are not blinded by UMNO’s rhetoric and propaganda, on the other hand, have seen through the no-contest resolution and its true motives.

They understand that the true motivation for the move is fear and arrogance – not unity or consensus. Fear that incumbent leaders will lose their grip on power if they face any challengers who will expose their flaws and scandals.

Or the arrogance that they are entitled to rule UMNO and possibly Malaysia indefinitely, regardless of their track record or public opinion.

Furthermore, critics have raised serious concerns about the legality and legitimacy of the motion. They have accused the party and the government of abusing their power and influence to change the rules to their advantage.

They argue that the UMNO constitution clearly states that the president and vice president must be elected every three years and that any attempt to circumvent this rule violates the party’s laws and democratic principles.

They also point out that the ROS’s approval of the no-contest motion may not be enough to legitimise it, especially if political interference and bias are suspected.

What’s the agenda?

In this context, it is worth asking whether UMNO’s no-contest motion is motivated by more than just the party’s internal dynamics.

Given that the current UMNO president and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is facing 47 criminal charges related to money laundering, bribery and corruption, is it possible that he is using the no-contest resolution to safeguard his positions and to protect himself from potential challengers who may expose his alleged wrongdoings?

UMNO’s president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (fourth from left) and the party’s deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan (third from left) attending the Kedah UMNO candidate introduction session recently
The recent statement by Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution that ministerial discretion was used to accept the no-contest resolution and grant an exemption to UMNO from de-registration has also raised eyebrows and suspicions.

While it is within the minister’s power to make such a decision, it does raise questions about the motives and interests behind the move. Is the minister showing favouritism to UMNO and its leaders because he shares their political ideology or is there another agenda at play?

The Pakatan Harapan (PH)-Barisan Nasional (BN) government under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim which came into power in 2022 on a platform of reform and transparency has faced its share of controversies and challenges, including allegations of policy failures and criticism of their handling of internal affairs.

However, these issues should not excuse or justify UMNO’s no-contest motion or any other actions that undermine the principles of democracy and good governance.

As the state election heats up, all political parties and leaders must respect the will and voice of the people and uphold the highest standards of integrity, accountability, and transparency. Any attempt to subvert the principles of democracy and good governance – whether by UMNO or any other party – would be a betrayal of the trust and confidence of the Malaysian people.

We have a responsibility as Malaysians to hold our leaders accountable and to expect the best from them. We must also keep in mind that our democracy is a priceless gift that we must cherish and safeguard for ourselves and future generations. Malaysia’s fate and future are in our hands.

Mahathir Mohd Rais is the Federal Territories’ information chief of Perikatan Nasional (PN).