KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — The war drums will start pounding anytime from now and political observers are already predicting that the 14th general election (GE14) may be the “mother of all elections” for Umno.
The rock-solid pillar of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) and always facing a barrage of attacks from the opposition camp, Umno is now using social media more effectively than ever to ward off allegations and slander.
From the tone of the speeches delivered by party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his deputy Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the ongoing Umno general assembly, it is obvious that Umno’s election machinery is well tuned and ready for GE14.
However, in its preoccupation with trouncing its opponents at the ballot box, Umno should never forsake its original core struggle, which was championing the Malay cause.
“It must convince voters, especially the Malays, that it is the only party that’s capable of protecting their rights,” said political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Idrus Mohd Masirin.
Seven decades have passed since its formation and it is time for Umno to return to the principles of its original struggle, he said, adding that other parties in the world were also endeavouring to retain their founding credo to remain relevant in the changing political landscape.
Malay votes crucial
Compromising on its struggle and spirit of its establishment may lead to Umno losing the support of the Malays.
“According to my observation, our Malay politicians always seem to be complacent.
“To ensure their victory at the coming general election, Umno leaders are currently being seen as trying to woo the non-Malay voters more than the Malay voters. In reality, the Malay votes are crucial for Umno’s survival,” said Mohd Idrus, a lecturer at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Environment at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in Batu Pahat, Johor.
Pointing to the perception among the Malays that Umno has abandoned the very foundation of its struggle, he said the party should make amends to win back the support of the community.
“This will also indirectly address the current split among Malay voters,” he said.
Umno, he added, would face pressure from “outsiders” to compromise but this should not be done at the expense of pawning the rights and dignity of the Malays.
“What is more important, the Malay agenda or taking care of the interests of others?” he asked.
Must strive to remain relevant
If Umno was no longer the choice of the Malays, the community’s political power would also start to erode, warned Mohd Idrus.
He is of the opinion that for it to remain relevant, Umno has to continue to fight for Malay rights.
“When wearing the Umno hat, it should only be concerned with Malay issues,” he said, adding that the other political parties did not give priority to the Malay agenda.
“PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat), for instance, is always giving way to the other races. DAP leaders put on an act when they are out fishing for Malay votes but we all know that it is a Chinese-based party,” said Mohd Idrus.
He said the Malay agenda issue risk getting buried if other political parties take over the nation’s administration because “those parties don’t have the interests of the Malays at heart” and were only keen on winning votes.
He added that there was also a tendency now for some groups within the Malay community to throw their support behind certain individuals contesting in the election, rather than the party they were representing.
“They believe that the individuals concerned have the capability to bring about change in their constituencies, so they are not so concerned about the party they belong to.”
Choice of candidates
Umno Puteri executive council member June Artisha Mohamed Nazari, meanwhile, insisted that the Malay cause remained close to the party’s heart and empowering the community has always been its priority.
She said all the existing government policies were products of Umno’s struggle.
“However, at the same time, we don’t want the other communities to be marginalised,” she said.
“For the overall progress of Malaysia, our policies are not just aimed at helping the Malays but the other races as well.”
According to June Artisha, Umno and DAP were usually the two most dominant parties during a general election.
She said since Umno was a Malay or Muslim-based party and DAP was clearly not Muslim-friendly, the former has to make use of the mainstream and new media to convince Malay voters that only Umno could ensure their perpetual well-being.
On GE14, she said although the Puteri wing was well prepared, the quality of the people to be fielded as candidates played an important role in ensuring victory.
“Voters these days are getting wiser and will only vote for worthy candidates.
“BN now has a new selection mechanism to ensure that only winnable candidates are chosen. BN’s victory in recent by-elections reflects the success of this strategy,” she added.
Consistent in its struggle
Teluk Kemang (Negri Sembilan) Umno Youth head Najib Isa said from the time the party was set up in 1946, it has always been consistent in its struggle.
What Umno should rectify right now was the perception war that has tarnished the party’s image, he said, adding that the Youth wing was actively going down to the grassroots to provide clarification on various issues.
“Umno’s struggle is not mere rhetoric. The Malays are where they are now due to the party’s struggle. Any policy implemented by BN must have the interests of the Malays and Bumiputeras at its core,” he said.
Now is the time to strive to get closer to the younger generation as their support would translate into more votes for Umno and BN come the general election, he added. — Bernama