KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Umno needs to push for the general elections to be held this year as challenging times lie ahead for the party, say political analysts.
Sociopolitical analyst Awang Azman Pawi from Universiti Malaya (UM) believes Umno is doing its best to push for a snap election.
“The Umno supreme council at its meeting on Friday night touched on the government’s withdrawal of subsidies and suggested tackling the rising cost of food holistically... this is all part of the party’s strategy to push for an early general election.
“Umno’s role now is to support the people by pressuring the government to implement their suggestions,” he explained.
Previously, some in Umno such as Datuk Seri Najib Razak and president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call for a snap election, believing Barisan Nasional can regain full control of the federal government.
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri had been reluctant to do so, citing rising inflation and other economic problems as more pressing issues that needed attention first.
Other Umno leaders including Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz backed the PM on the matter, saying now was not the time to hold a general election.
Awang Azman described Umno’s decision to pressure the government on certain issues as being similar to their pushing the government to allow Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors to make a special withdrawal of RM10,000 from their accounts in March this year.
“At that time, we were in the first phase where Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition would have done well if an early general election was held,” he said, adding that both Umno and BN had strong support at that time as they were seen as defenders for the people in times of need.
At present, he said we are now in the second phase that will run from June to September where Umno and BN will likely win if snap elections are held.
However, he said the momentum will not be as strong as during the first phase when support for Umno and BN was at its peak.
Awang Azman said the third phase is from September till year end where support for Umno and BN is expected to taper off with smaller gains.
“There are several factors for the reduced support and it includes the issues at play as well as a stronger Opposition front as they will have ample time to strategise,” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) Professor Sivamurugan Pandian echoed Awang Azman’s view that Umno and BN have a better chance of winning if the general election is held earlier this year.
“Timing is important and at the same time I believe there should be the ‘feel good’ factor before snap polls can be held,” he said.
“However, as the year advances there will be other challenges for Umno. Among them is the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and Pakatan Harapan (PH) that will expire on July 31.
“At the same time, tackling inflation and the rising cost of living issues need to be looked into."
Meanwhile, Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) College of Law, Government and International Studies senior lecturer Professor Mohamad Faisol Keling said Umno is in reality prepared for a general election to be held anytime.
He said the issues discussed at Friday’s Umno supreme council meeting is a result of the current Cabinet’s weaknesses where there are many ministers and deputy ministers who are not qualified and lacking in experience.
“With declining government reserves and rising national debt, the situation has caused some ministers to make unexpected decisions without reviewing and discussing with the prime minister.
“This has resulted in uncontrollable cost increases,” said Mohamad Faisol.
He said Umno’s decisions at the supreme council meeting was also a strategy to create stability through political will.
He said such a strategy is needed as the current government’s implementation of policies is seen as weak.
“Thus, Umno’s strategy is to create a stable government that can provide opportunities for more effective administration as well as to convince investors.
“This will enable the country to get out of the crisis of the past government’s weaknesses and failures,” he explained.
On former Selangor BN information chief and political strategist Isham Jalil’s newly-minted role as an Umno supreme council member, Awang Azman said it was fitting that Ahmad Zahid appointed him.
“In some ways, Isham’s appointment is seen as a strategic move to rejuvenate the party.
“Isham is a good example of a young Umno professional from a working-class family background who did well,” he said.
He added that this was proof that Ahmad Zahid as party president wants to bring change to Umno with young and new faces.