Analysts: Umno's return to being a centrist party is a good move
KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Umno's return to being a centrist party after joining forces with Pakatan Harapan (PH) to form the Unity Government is good for a multiracial country such as Malaysia, said political analysts.
On Friday, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi urged party members to move towards being more progressive and avoid being bogged down by rivals’ toxic politics.
He reminded Umno members to go back to the party’s historical roots and said that the party started out as a political movement to champion the people’s aspirations and not as an “elite” group with vested interests.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research Senior Fellow Azmi Hassan said this is the time for Zahid to prove that Umno is a party that champions the people, just like in the old days.
“It is very ironic for Zahid to say Umno is getting rid of toxic politics and be more progressive when the party itself is usually involved in internal squabbles.
“However, this is a window of opportunity for Zahid to prove that Umno is going back to the middle, a party for all, as they are working together with PH via the Unity Government.
“Of course the state elections are the main reason here but It’s good for our national politics and Umno needs to go head on against PAS who are playing up toxic sentiments using race and religion cards,” he told Malay Mail.
Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) Associate Professor Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani believes that Umno can be very successful heading back to the middle.
“Zahid wants Umno to be moderate and propagate centrist politics and reject the far right approach. It is good for Malaysia as we are a multiracial country.
“Zahid can be successful because Umno used to be known as centrist until perhaps 2005. It is not something new for them. The party members need to learn quickly and with the help of the Unity Government, I believe Umno can do it,” he said.
Professor of Asian Studies, University of Tasmania, James Chin said steering Umno into a new direction can take several years.
“Zahid is trying to move Umno back to the middle ground. The party is basically losing to Perikatan Nasional (PN) on the right wing side of Malay politics. So the only way to win back the Malays’ hearts is to move back to the middle ground. That's why he talked about the early days of Umno.
“He has no choice but to get Umno aligned with PH’s direction but it is not easy, it will take several years. Umno’s grassroots are not used to working with other parties outside of Barisan Nasional such as DAP. We can see a lot of unhappiness at the grassroots level.
“The grassroots also are not used to not controlling the government. People sometimes forget that Umno ran the country for more than 50 years. A lot of time is needed to change Umno's political culture,” Chin said.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Umno’s Supreme Working Council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam explained Zahid's vision of progressive politics is that Umno is capable of safeguarding the interests of all Malaysians.
“It requires drastic political change in order for the current government or party to attract the support of all, through the unwavering actions of the government.
“This requires further social-political outreach and boldness. With this progressive step, we are able to drive the country's economic growth and boost the personality and personality of the people,” Lokman Noor said.
He added that this has long been practised by unity governments in New Zealand, Belgium, Papua New Guinea, Croatia, Denmark which recorded stability in all corners.
“Umno in the Unity Government needs to be more open. The members must open their minds and support this transition for the sake of religion, race and nation,” he said.