State polls: Brewing discontent among Najib supporters

(The Star) – Brewing internal turmoil within Umno, unless handled properly, may derail the party’s ability to deliver the Malay votes to the unity govt in the coming six state elections.

A major discontent comes from Umno supporters of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who felt that the party leadership has not done enough to secure the former Umno president’s release from jail via a royal pardon.

Umno Youth permanent chairman Wan Agyl Wan Hassan (pic above) said party members noticed the lack of support among top leaders towards Najib in the recent party general assembly last month.

“It could have been due to Umno’s current position in the unity government, whereby aligning with a leader involved with a corruption scandal can be costly in terms of politics and public perception.

“This situation creates various perceptions among Najib supporters who wanted clear action instead of words,” said Wan Agyl.

Wan Agyl also conceded that the party’s top leadership was aware of discontent among Umno members during the general assembly.

“Therefore, the speech by Najib’s eldest son (Datuk) Nizar was the best solution to calm Umno supporters down.

“But, it is hard to predict how effective this was,” said Wan Agyl.

During the Umno general assembly last month, Nizar (pic above) played a short video clip of Najib, and gave a speech saying that his father wanted Umno members to remain loyal to the party and president.

Meanwhile, Wan Agyl argued Najib’s influence on Umno can be seen in the contrasting results of the Johor and Melaka state polls and the 15th General Election.

“Support for Najib was seen to be stronger than support towards Umno. This is seen through the Johor and Melaka state polls results, when Najib was campaigning for the party and in GE15, after Najib was imprisoned,” said Wan Agyl.

“That is why he is seen as an unpredictable factor that could influence political dynamics,” added Wan Agyl.

Despite drowning in court cases, Wan Agyl said Najib is still enjoying rising support, even with Bersatu and PAS leaders, who recently called for the former premier to be pardoned.

“They also claim that Najib was a victim of injustice and they are supporting a pardon for him,” added Wan Agyl.

Wan Agyl said the top leadership should take into account the risk of Najib supporters boycotting the state polls.

“I’m confident that Najib supporters will not resort to a boycott. But, this matter should be handled tactfully,” added Wan Agyl.

Federal Territories Umno Youth chief Datuk Aliff Firdaus said the Umno general assembly last month had spoken extensively on various issues such as urban poverty, youth economy and among others

“But, Najib remains (a pertinent) issue in the Umno general assembly because the struggle for justice is being carried by Umno grassroots leaders themselves,” added Aliff.

Aliff also played down murmurs of party members boycotting the state polls, as he was confident that Umno’s top leaders are currently fighting for justice in Najib’s case.

“In fact, Najib himself does not want Umno members to shield him,” said Aliff.

Aliff said Umno members were rational when it comes to seeking justice for Najib and the upcoming state elections.

“Because, the most important issue is the party itself,” said Aliff.

“To me, the (boycott) factor is the game played by our political opponents to weaken the spirits of Umno members,” added Aliff.

The six states – Selangor, Penang, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu, Kelantan and Kedah – will be having elections on Aug 12.

Najib is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence at the Kajang prison after his conviction was upheld by the Federal Court on Aug 23 last year.

In April, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said Najib’s pardon request was not discussed during the Pardons Board meeting at the time.