KUALA LUMPUR, June 30 — Political experts have dismissed Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman’s claim he could defend his Pasir Salak seat even if he were not selected by Umno, saying even his three-term record there meant little without the endorsement of the Malay nationalist party.
According to them, Tajuddin’s success in the Perak federal constituency was based heavily on his role as an Umno leader, and which he has a low probability of repeating either as an independent or a PAS candidate.
Senior fellow at the Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research (NASR) Azmi Hassan pointed out that Pasir Salak has been an Umno seat ever since its creation in 1984, decades before Tajuddin first won in 2008.
“Umno played a critical role in helping all the previous candidates, including incumbent Tajuddin, to win the Pasir Salak seat.
“If Tajuddin wants to defend the seat by contesting Independently then he will be in a lot of trouble. Because using his popularity alone as a three-term parliamentarian will not be able to help get enough votes,” he told Malay Mail.
While Tajuddin has said he could take up the offer from PAS' leadership for him to contest on its ticket, Azmi said the Umno man was unlikely to gain the backing of local Islamists.
They were unlikely to see beyond Tajuddin’s image as an Umno firebrand in order to vote for him, he predicted.
“So, I think all is lost for Tajuddin,” he added.
Having criticised Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for dropping him from the party’s supreme council in a recent press conference, Tajuddin claimed he could defend his federal seat without the party’s support.
PAS secretary-general Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan subsequently said Tajuddin was welcome to further his political career with the Islamist party.
According to analyst Prof Ahmad Atory Hussain, Tajuddin’s claim was unconvincing as Umno supporters typically voted for the party over the candidate.
Matters were worse for Tajuddin as the Umno division under him in Pasir Salak became fractured after the 2018 general election.
“Since then, party members have been splitting off into groups and cliques, some have grouped into other leaders in the Umno division.
“In other words, Tajuddin does not have solid support among members in his own division. A lot of division leaders have been axed or left the party joining either PAS, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) or Amanah,” he explained.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman political analyst Teh Boon Teck said Tajuddin could have a chance in the seat if he could convince all of PAS' supporters to back him in the next general election.
Depending on political developments from now until the 15th general election, he also said Umno’s own popularity could drop in that time.
Teh conceded, however, that Tajuddin would still need to split the Umno vote in order to keep this hope alive.
“But his remarks from the recent press conference have offended many (Umno) leaders,” he said.
While Tajuddin as an Independent would not have a very good chance of winning, University Sultan Azlan Shah (USAS) vice chancellor Prof Tan Sri Nordin Kardi said he could still make life difficult for any hypothetical opponent of Umno.
Depending on how each candidate positioned himself on economic issues, he said the person might be able to secure the backing of non-resident voters as well as the young and undecided.
“These groups of voters have no affection for Tajuddin. Campaigning content and strategy will determine who will win the seat. The constituency is not very much developed.
“Its main economy produce is rice and oil palm. Candidates should understand the lifestyle and the voter’s way of thinking. What can be offered to them? Outside voters will want to know what are the opportunities given to their villages,” he said.
Ultimately, however, Azmi said it was unlikely that the rift between Umno and Tajuddin will grow bigger.
He predicted that tempers would subside once Tajuddin departs for Indonesia where he will be Malaysia’s ambassador, allowing the argument to die a natural death.
On Monday, Tajuddin claimed of a plot in 2020 to remove Ahmad Zahid as the president of Umno; he made the allegation in retaliation to Ahmad Zahid’s decision to expel him from the Umno supreme council.
Tajuddin also said that he, Ahmad Zahid and 13 other Umno MPs had signed sworn declarations affirming support for PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to become prime minister.