Umno leaders, analysts agree with Dr M’s doomsday projection

Umno cannot remain in denial and must effect leadership change, they say.

(FMT) – Umno leaders and political analysts agree with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s projection that the party may be wiped out in the 16th general election if it continues to bleed Malay support.

Umno Supreme Council member Isham Jalil said the party only managed to garner around 30% of the Malay votes at the recent Kemaman by-election, while PAS secured 70%.

Isham said Umno lost votes after fence sitters decided to back the opponent. On top of that, many Umno members cast protest votes in favour of the PAS candidate or decided to skip the by-election altogether.

The former Umno information chief said the party cannot win any election without grassroots support, which is rapidly vanishing.

“As long as we are in denial, do not make the drastic changes needed, and remain oblivious to the defeat, it is not impossible for what Mahathir says to happen within the next four years,” he told FMT.

Isham said Umno would lose its “locus standi” to push the Malay agenda if it were too reliant on DAP’s support to win at the polls.

On Monday, former Umno president Mahathir said PAS’s landslide victory in Kemaman was proof that support for Umno has eroded further. He said the loss was primarily due to the party’s collaboration with DAP.

PAS retained the seat with a 37,000 vote majority, a 10,000-vote increase from the majority it secured in the last general election.

University Sains Malaysia’s Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said Mahathir’s assessment was “on the dot”. He said support for Umno has depleted drastically since the 15th general election.

That, he said, is reflected in the fact that Umno had lost more than 10,000 votes in Kemaman alone since GE 15 last year.

“Even in areas where Umno successfully defended its stronghold, such as (the) Pelangai (by-election) in Pahang, its victory was strongly supported by non-Malay Pakatan Harapan voters.”

Agreeing with Mahathir, Umno Youth permanent chairman Wan Agyl Wan Hassan said the recent downward trend boiled down to a failure in communication.

According to Wan Agyl, Umno leaders had become “too excited” about its alliance with Pakatan Harapan to the extent that it has failed to explain to the party’s grassroots its position in the unity government and its relationship with long-time rival DAP.

He said the grassroot members were unable to ignore the stark differences between Umno and DAP and why it has befriended a party it once demonised.

“While Umno is a part of the unity government, we need to realise that Umno needs to maintain our political position (as the Malay voice in the Cabinet).

“Did we need to put aside all the differences we have had overnight just to form the unity government? This is completely wrong,” said Wan Agyl.

Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir said unless the current Umno leadership is changed, the Malays would continue to reject the party and more members would back Perikatan National out of spite for president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He also said Malay voters backed PN due to Umno’s alliance with PH, especially the DAP.

“But I think it’s difficult (for the party to change its leadership); they are in a dilemma. On one hand, they want to gain Malay support, while on the other hand, they want to cooperate with PH,” he said.

Jeniri said Umno has to decide which was more important – remaining in power via cooperation with PH or winning back Malay support, even if it is at the expense of being part of the government.