KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 — Selangor Barisan Nasional (BN) is expected to boost its image with the inclusion of Finance Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz in its line-up, after the latter was appointed treasurer.
A source told Malay Mail that Tengku Zafrul has been touted as the new face of Umno and BN in the state in a bid to promote “clean, young and professional” look for the coalition and party that lost the state in 2008.
“With Tengku Zafrul at the forefront, Selangor BN should be able to rise back on their dismal performance in the state,” said an anonymous source from the BN chapter who is close to the matter.
Another source added that Tengku Zafrul is ready to contest in both Parliament and state seats in the Kuala Selangor district, revealing that the Umno division there has now “accepted” him.
“The Selangor and central highest leadership has agreed to give way for Tengku Zafrul as one of the leaders in the state. He will play a big role in the next general election,” said the source from Umno.
Technocrat, fresh line-up would increase BN’s appeal
Meanwhile, political observers also told Malay Mail that Tengku Zafrul’s inclusion would be part of a strategy for Umno to attract urban voters with a refreshed line-up going into the next general election (GE15).
Senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said Selangor BN is seen as trying to emulate PKR’s formula of fielding technocrats like the late mentri besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim to appeal to voters.
He said that having Tengku Zafrul as the poster boy for the Malay nationalist party may appear to be the best strategy in an attempt to take back Selangor after its devastating performances in the previous general elections.
“I think [the voters] need to be approached differently because in the previous election the influence of warlords or party’s strongmen were still strong but with this Tengku Zafrul concept will be a breath of fresh air,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail.
Echoing Azmi, Universiti Malaya socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi predicted that with Tengku Zafrul as the poster boy, the finance minister may then be appointed as mentri besar if BN wins.
“In terms of a war of images or figures, BN definitely wants Selangor voters to judge or compare its candidate to the current Selangor mentri besar,” Azman said, referring to PKR’s Datuk Seri Amiruddin Shari.
However, Universiti Malaysia Sabah political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said the move would be bold as Tengku Zafrul is still considered untested despite being seen as not carrying any political baggage.
“It is a reform and can be considered a brave act if Selangor BN puts Tengku Zafrul as BN’s ‘poster boy’ for GE15 in Selangor. This is because Tengku has a clean image, free from any controversy and his active hobby of running actually invites admiration among marathon sports enthusiasts.
“It’s brave because there are certainly many leaders from BN, especially Umno, who want to be promoted to the front compared to Tengku Zafrul who is still considered a newbie in politics,” he told Malay Mail.
What are BN’s chances in Selangor?
Further commenting on BN’s chances to retake Selangor, Lee and Awang said it may be a hard goal for the Umno-led coalition to regain its popularity in such urban populations.
Lee said that most of the voters in Selangor are the product of urbanisation and migration which means that BN has to place its bet on ethnic Chinese voters for the party’s clutch moment.
“BN’s ability to seize Selangor depends on the extent to which BN is able to win Chinese votes.
”The responsibility of which is not only on the shoulders of MCA but Umno itself because voters take various factors into account when deciding who they want to vote for, including who is the partner or alliance of the political party that the candidate represents because it is indirectly seen as endorsements to the entire ‘team’ of competing candidates,” he added.
However, Azmi said that Umno’s potential to win back Selangor is rather brighter compared to Penang, as Pakatan Harapan (PH) especially PKR is currently plagued with internal strife that could shake the party’s stability and influence among Selangor voters.
“Whether they work together with Perikatan Nasional or not, I don’t think it’s going to have much effect or additional votes for BN. So I think that they (BN) are better off alone,” he added.
Tengku Zafrul was announced as the new Selangor BN treasurer on Sunday, replacing Umno Sungai Besar division chief Datuk Seri Jamal Md Yunos.
Jamal, meanwhile, has been appointed Selangor BN communications chief. The appointment has added more fuel to speculation that Tengku Zafrul could be contesting in the 15th general election.
Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan has since urged the party to give Tengku Zafrul a chance to prove his value following his appointment as BN treasurer, lauding it as a bold move that could help the ruling coalition recapture the state once considered its most-prized jewel.
Shahril, currently director of the economic division within the Prime Minister’s Office, suggested Tengku Zafrul’s cosmopolitan personality and vast experience as a corporate captain could bring a fresh perspective to the coalition as it looks to upend Pakatan Harapan dominance in Selangor, where BN has failed to make any significant inroads since it was ousted in 2008.