KOTA BARU: A strategy gone wrong, failure to provide convincing narratives and distrust towards Umno leaders – these were the main reasons for the party’s poor performance in Kelantan, say grassroots leaders here.
Despite a low voter turnout of 60.96% – which should have augured well for the state Opposition – Umno went from bad to worse in Kelantan.
It not only failed to wrest the state from PAS, but also lost six seats it previously held – Kok Lanas, Gual Ipoh, Bukit Bunga, Kuala Balah, Nenggiri and Paloh.
Umno only won in Galas.
The main gripe among grassroots leaders was the selection of candidates, which they said was a “turn-off”.
“The list sent by our chairman (Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub) consisted of strong candidates but why did the central leadership change them to weak ones?
“We cannot be strong if the central leadership doesn’t trust decisions made by the state. This is a strategy gone wrong and I blame the central leadership,” one branch committee member said.
A Wanita veteran here blamed the delayed announcement of the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional manifesto for Kelantan, saying the machinery was not given enough time to spread the word.
“Our offers were great but not many voters knew about them. We couldn’t get to everyone in time. I don’t understand why we couldn’t announce it earlier,” she said.
The manifesto was revealed almost a week into the campaigning period.
As the dust settled on Umno’s bitter defeat, many party faithful were left disenchanted with the top leadership.
While the Kelantan leaders were not outrightly calling for party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s resignation, several office bearers who declined to be quoted said he needed to go.
One youth leader here said Ahmad Zahid must take responsibility, as it was embarrassing that Umno won only 19 of the 108 seats it contested in all six states.
“That is over 80% failure. Umno will always get back on its feet when its president is magnanimous.
“When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad realised the party was losing support, he made way for Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“After that, PAS was only left with a small simple majority of 24 seats in Kelantan while Barisan had 21 seats. Clearly, Zahid needs to go,” the youth leader said.
However, Ahmad Jazlan himself said Ahmad Zahid’s resignation was not likely to do anything, adding that he believed the calls for his resignation was a tactic by Umno’s opponents to cause friction within the party.
“I prefer to focus on what can be done to gain the people’s support.
“One way is to re-establish the Kelantan Federal Development Department so we provide direct service to the rakyat. Letting the (PAS) state government distribute assistance from the Federal Government is a misplaced strategy. Voters only remember the hand that gives them the aid,” he said.
Bachok Umno youth vice-chief Azwan Mat Hussain echoed that view.
“I don’t see why the president needs to resign. However, we need to go back to the drawing board and do a comprehensive post-mortem.
“We should have the Federal Development Department back,” he said.