Can Umno contest the next general election on its own? It can, but Umno has always contested elections as part of a pact with Chinese and Indian-based parties – first in the Alliance and later in the Barisan Nasional.
The Alliance consisted of Umno, MCA and MIC. In 1974, then Umno president Razak Hussein engineered the formation of the BN, getting PAS, PPP, Gerakan, SUPP, PBB and Perikatan Sabah to join the trio. At one point the BN was made up of 14 partners but after the 2018 general election it shrunk to the original three.
To ask the question “should Umno go it alone” instead of “should BN go it alone” suggests that Umno is not only the driving force of the BN but the deciding party. Umno can survive without the MCA and the MIC but these two can’t survive without Umno, at least not now.
Should Umno go it alone? There are two views among Umno leaders, going by recent statements. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Umno’s advisory board chairman, feels Umno, as part of BN, is strong enough to contest in GE15 without collaborating with others, including PAS. He argues that Umno’s track record since its formation in 1946 gives him this confidence.
Umno supreme council member Annuar Musa, however, says Umno cannot win if it were to go “solo” (note again that solo here means as part of BN). Going it alone would be an act of fantasising, he says.
Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan, fondly called Tok Mat by members, says it’s wrong to say Umno cannot win on its own as “all this while” the party had won on its own “but in GE14, we made a little mistake. But it is better if there is co-operation”.
ToK Mat recently also said that Umno planned to contest in not less than 96 parliamentary seats in GE15.
“We want to retain and contest in the seats we won. We also want to contest in the seats where we were number two (second highest votes in GE14). We also find that there are seats our BN colleagues never won, because voters there want a Malay candidate, for example.”
The truth of the matter is that the Umno of today is not the Umno of yesteryear.
While it is not terribly weak, it is not strong enough to go it alone with its BN partners, especially since the MCA and MIC are at their lowest ever too.
Also, politics today has moved from one single party calling the shots – as Umno did in the past – to a group of parties of more or less equal strength negotiating power at the top in Putrajaya.
It’s somewhat tragic for Umno as almost all the Malay parties that are today its rivals for votes in the peninsula are its offshoots. PAS was formed in 1951 by Muslim clerics from Umno and others and there was a time when PAS members could also hold membership in Umno. Later, it went its way.
PKR is an Umno splinter party which was born in 1998 after the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim from Umno and the then government. PPBM was formed by ex-Umno leaders who were out to kill Umno and replace it as the go-to party for Malays.
Umno is, therefore, the mothership. But a floundering mothership.
So, Umno needs to collaborate with others if it wants to capture power democratically again, and not through the back door, at least in GE15.
Umno, now part of the PPBM-led Perikatan Nasional government, has said it will work with PN only until fresh elections are called. This is to be expected, as a large majority of PPBM MPs today were once from Umno. Many won under the Umno ticket but crossed over to PPBM after the May 2018 general election, throwing their lot with the victors.
Any pact with PPBM will curtail the number of seats Umno can contest, as PPBM would want to contest the seats it now holds, although many of them were won when the incumbent MPs were Umno members.
Without such a pact, Umno is free to contest as it likes.
But it is not the same with PAS. Following the GE14 loss, Umno teamed up with PAS in Muafakat Nasional. This pact could help Umno regain power as PAS has strong support in Malay-dominant states such as Kelantan, Terenganu and Kedah.
However, such cooperation may not be easy as PAS will also be collaborating with PPBM in GE15. PAS is gambling on the prospect that it’ll get a few ministerships and positions no matter whether PN or Umno wins.
PAS on its own can only swim in a pond and dream of the ocean, but by teaming up with Umno or PN, it can actually have an opportunity to swim in the ocean. It may think it is already swimming in the ocean now but there’s no dignity in it because it was rejected by voters in the last general election and is now sharing power only because of political manipulations.
Umno can also partner with Pakatan Harapan or have some loose understanding with it. Alternatively, it can choose to officially work with PKR – and not the DAP and Amanah which are also part of PH – due to reasons I mentioned in my previous column.
But if BN wants to contest on its own in the peninsula, it has to forge pacts with parties in Sabah and Sarawak so that it has a chance of forming the government. Otherwise, there is little chance of Umno being in control of the government..
Whether Umno wants to go it alone or partner with others, it has to undergo a drastic change. It is seen by many as corrupt and a party where money politics is a way of life. It is seen as a party that doesn’t care for the non-Malay voter. It is seen as being arrogant.
So, for starters, there is need to change these perceptions and that can come only with a leadership change.
By : A. Kathirasen – FMT
*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of THE STRINGER