Zahid’s resignation alone not enough to reform Umno, say experts

Umno will need to undergo an extended period of reform to recover from its abject performance at the six state elections last Saturday, a political analyst said.

(FMT) – Jeniri Amir, a senior fellow of the National Council of Professors, said Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s resignation as president alone will not be sufficient for Umno to reclaim lost Malay support or for the party to change its image overnight.

Many, including party veteran Idris Jusoh, have called for Zahid to step aside with immediate effect in the wake of the widespread rejection of Umno candidates at the state polls.

However, Jeniri believes a change of Umno’s top leader alone will not turn the tide for the party.

“There is more that needs to be done than just Zahid’s resignation, they probably need to change the top five Supreme Council members as well,” Jeniri told FMT.

The party will also need at least two years to restore its battered image, he added.

Jeniri said Zahid had reneged on his “No Anwar, No DAP” promise by leading Barisan Nasional into a unity government with Pakatan Harapan (PH), which has impacted the party’s image heavily.

This was after he had at the party’s 2021 annual general assembly rejected altogether the possibility of Umno and BN co-operating with either PH or Bersatu, he said.

Jeniri also added that Umno’s newfound working relationship with DAP has further alienated its grassroots.

“They have been demonising DAP for more than five decades, but now they are working with DAP, so how can they justify that?” he said.

Jeniri said Umno’s poor performance in the state elections was a manifestation of the disappointment of its party members.

The party was soundly defeated in most of the 108 seats it contested across six states recently, taking home only 19 seats.

However, Azmil Tayeb of Universiti Sains Malaysia believes Zahid’s resignation would be a good first step towards reforming Umno.

“It was like when Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down (following a relatively poor showing in 1999) and was replaced by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is also known as ‘Mr Clean’,” he told FMT.

BN bounced back by winning more than 90% of the seats in the 2004 general election, due to this change of leadership, he added.

Under Abdullah, Umno won 109 of 219 seats in the 11th general election (with BN taking 198 in total), the peak of the Malay party’s dominance of national politics.