PETALING JAYA: Umno has to overhaul its image and put its house in order to regain the people’s trust before the next elections.
However, just removing party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is no silver bullet that will solve Umno’s issues, which have been festering for years, say political analysts.
Umno’s dismal performance in the state elections – it won just 19 of the 108 seats it contested – was a manifestation of Malay disappointment towards Ahmad Zahid’s leadership and also a rejection of the cooperation with DAP, said National Professors Council senior fellow Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir.
“What aggravates the situation is Umno’s collaboration with Pakatan Harapan and DAP, which has been demonised by Umno for more than 50 years.
“Malays see that because of political survival and power, Umno is willing to sacrifice its principles. That caused Umno members and Malays to protest by either not voting, or voting for Perikatan Nasional,” he said yesterday.
Jeniri, however, said Ahmad Zahid was not solely responsible for Umno’s poor showing.
He said the entire top leadership, including the party’s supreme council, should shoulder the responsibility as well.
Jeniri said many of Umno’s wins were only by slim majorities. “There must now be total commitment to revive and revamp the party. But I believe it’s not going to be that easy and will take longer than five years to change the image and reputation of Umno,” he said.
In the six state elections, Umno, the lynchpin party of Barisan Nasional, lost all its seats in Terengganu, won only one in Kelantan, and two each in Penang and Selangor, as well as 14 in Negri Sembilan.
The poor results followed last year’s debacle in the 15th General Election when Barisan won only 30 of the 176 seats contested.
Jeniri said Umno’s win in Negri Sembilan could be due to its deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan’s personality factor.
He added that compared to PAS-strongholds Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu, which have a much larger Malay demographic and stronger PAS influence, Negri Sembilan had a different demographic and weaker PAS presence.
Jeniri also did not expect Umno’s performance to affect the unity government at federal level.
“To ensure the stability of the country, they have no choice but to make a strong commitment to ensure that the unity government will go the full term,” he said.
Election analyst Dr G. Manimaran said the shift of Malay voters away from Umno was the culmination of an entire generation’s perception about the party.
“Too many captains tried to steer the ship. There was no direction but lots of internal bickering. In the end, it became like crabs walking (unable to walk straight).”
He too said getting Ahmad Zahid out was not the answer to the problem.
“Don’t think if Zahid is out, the problems can be solved. Rather than pressuring Zahid to resign, they must pool their resources, go back to the drawing board and put the house in order,” he said.
Manimaran said Umno must rebrand to continue to stay relevant, especially to younger voters.
“Umno needs to inject fresh blood and relook its branding every 10 years as there are fresh voters every decade,” he said.