KUALA LUMPUR: Umno must win the Pelangai by-election regardless of who the party fields as its candidate, says Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
"The party is more important than the candidate contesting.
"All Umno members must support our candidate because should he lose, it will further tarnish the party's image," he said during the Simposium Antarabangsa Aspirasi Bahasa Melayu here on Monday (Sept 25).
The former prime minister was commenting on reports that former Bentong Umno Youth member Haslihelmy DM Zulhasli is contesting as an independent candidate in the Pelangai by-election to protest against Barisan Nasional's decision to field Datuk Amizar Abu Adam as its candidate.
Ismail Sabri said Umno's image had been hurt badly during the recent six state elections and should not be tarnished even more.
"If we lose Pelangai and Perikatan Nasional wins, we will have only 16 state seats compared to their 18 seats.
"If we win, we equal Perikatan's number of state seats," he said.
He added that the party should not be overly proud with the unity coalition's recent wins in Pulai and Simpang Jeram.
"We should seriously look at why Malays are not voting for Umno and are attracted to Perikatan.
"Umno is a Malay party who should be attracting Malay voters," he said.
The Pelangai by-election will be a three-cornered fight between Amizar, Perikatan's Kasim Samat and Haslihelmy.
The by-election was called following the death of Datuk Seri Johari Harun, 53, who perished in an air crash in Shah Alam on Aug 17.
The Election Commission has set polling day on Oct 7 and early voting on Oct 3.