Analysts: Umno's GE15 downfall a long time coming, sabotage protest by own party members

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 —The disastrous show displayed by Umno in the 15th general election (GE15) was a result of too many frictions within the party, political analysts said.

University of Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel) sociopolitical analyst Associate Professor Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the friction in the party and continuous bickering among each other and speaking up against the party in public had placed them in a bad position leading up to GE15.

“Their (Umno members) statements made against the party be it in public or done behind doors when they were unhappy about party’s decision have also contributed to the party’s huge defeat in GE15.

“The unhappy sentiment had also translated into sabotage and protest,” Awang Azman told Malay Mail when contacted.

He was referring to Umno members like Khairy Jamaluddin who was told to leave his Rembau seat which led to much public attention, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim who contested under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) ticket as revenge against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) who dropped him as the Arau parliamentary constituency, Tan Sri Annuar Musa who said it was hard for BN to win the general election and Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz’s prediction that BN would lose more federal constituency seats in GE15.

Awang Azman said it was these statements that were often picked up on by the press which had led to the coalition’s worst performance in a general election.

“Otherwise they would not have lost if it were not for these constant remarks.

“Like Khairy, he made statements to make himself popular during the campaigning period but failed to realise that he was causing damage to his party and the BN coalition,” he said.

This instability has also indirectly contributed to Malays shifting their support to PAS.

The GE15 results showed that PAS gained massive support overtaking BN.

The Malays shifting their support however was something that had been brewing since the Kongres Maruah Melayu (Malay Dignity Congress) organised by several local universities back in 2019, Awang Azman said.

“That was the spark ... which drew the Malay/Muslim’s attention.

“This further reinforced the Muafakat Nasional political pact that was made between PAS and Umno in 2018, against Pakatan Harapan (PH) when it came into power after winning the GE14.

“The pact however did not work out as agreed when PAS decided to choose Bersatu over Umno to work with for the GE15,” he said.

Since then PN has been building up on narratives that could attract the hearts and minds of Malays by portraying itself as a conservative front.

“Hence you see the play-up on ethnicity and religion, issues that are Islam-related, and how Islam would be threatened if it fell into the hands of PH.

“This has also presented PAS as the safer alternative for Malays when compared with Umno, and that is translated in this general election,” added Awang Azman.

He pointed out that PAS today has a presence in not only Kelantan and Terengganu, but Kedah, and gradually gaining influence in Perlis, Penang and even Negri Sembilan.

Weighing in his views, Senior Fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Azmi Hassan said the Malay voters have chosen PAS as they view it as a party that could protect their race, their interests and religion.

“PAS as an individual party among the Malay-based parties won the most seats — 44, compared to Umno and Bersatu

“The Malays abandoned Umno because now they have PAS, and they view PAS as a cleaner option, there is no negative stigma, in this case, as compared to Umno there are a number of their leaders who are linked to corruption.

“It’s clear that Malay voters want a clean party, clean federal government and a clean state government,” he said adding that PAS grassroots not only supported PAS but also PN candidates nationwide.

Can Umno make a comeback?

Director of Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, James Chin said Umno can only recover if it gets rids of the current leaders.

“It can recover but it will take a long time. They need to remove all the current leaders as they are tainted.

“They lost the election primarily because of their leader Zahid (Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi).

“It’s a long and difficult road because I’m sure Bersatu is thinking of whether they can ‘swallow’ Umno up,” said Chin.

Several leaders including the Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi in Umno have since asked for Zahid to take responsibility for the party’s embarrassing defeat in GE15.

Among others, Shahril Sufian Hamadan has stepped down as the party’s information chief while Tan Sri Noh Omar resigned as Selangor Umno state liaison chief.

BN only managed to secure 30 parliamentary seats in the GE15 out of the 178 it contested.