UMNO is at a cross road.
In GE 14, the party won the highest share of Malay Muslim votes among the parties, but it lost its overwhelming advantage over Pakatan Harapan and split the Saluran 1 vote with “the PAS.”
In the several by-elections that have taken place, UMNO has not been able to claw back any support. It has lost and lost and lost.
What makes it worse is that with the EC now headed by lawyer Art Harun!
It should be safely assumed that the gerrymandering under the ex-EC Chairman Hashim will be overturned. UMNO will now have to fight PH in multiracial seats urban and semi urban seats. The overwhelming advantage UMNO had in its extensive network which reached far and wide throughout the country will be nullified as the new EC Chairman may push for a more proportional representation.
In fact, with finances drying up, loss of power, threats of prosecution for accepting 1MDB money, UMNO looks very shaky and the feeling gloom and doom may cause this year’s Annual General Assembly, (Perhimpunan Agung UMNO or PAU) to be the saddest in its history.
As Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhiyiddin Yassin wryly remarked, it was futile to spend time and resources to organise the considered the party’s PAU as be considered the party to be ‘TA-PAU’ or finished politically.
Many UMNO grassroots especially the “perayu undi” (vote beggars) will be hurt. PAU is an important festival, something like Songkran in Thailand. It allows several days of non-stop political theatre, free food, and most importantly, power tripping as it used to be a chance for simple kampong folk to mingle with the leadership of the country.
(But this year, it is not on. The simple kampong folk may have to pay for their own travels and won’t have a chance to do weefies with any Important People. That is unless, Tun Dr Mahathir makes a grand entrance to UMNO General Assembly, but he probably will be boo’ed so that is not possible as well.)
However, the ball is now firmly in UMNO’s court.
With the last party election, UMNO lost a massive opportunity to reform itself as many warlords were returned power. In fact, UMNO members, perhaps not comprehending the implication of the May 09th election result, more or less behaved as if things were normal and carried on to accede to their respective warlord’s wishes. Warlord themselves considered the post of Ketua Bahagian UMNO as some sort of family inheritance and refused to step down.
I think they fail to get the point.
Under today’s rule, there is no more status accorded to a Ketua Bahagian UMNO. In fact, there is probably not much status accorded to Timbalan Presiden UMNO or even Naib-Naib Presiden UMNO or even Majilis Tertinggi UMNO. UMNO is a party of 49 Members of Parliament, even smaller than the number of MPs from the DAP. Rafizi is now more powerful than Najib! The world has changed.
So to adept to this new scenario, UMNO needs something it never had before: BRAINS!
For a long time, UMNO could afford to behave in an UMNO-ish way because the party had a lot of power. Now, UMNO has no more power and it must begin to find creative ways to reach out to 2 key segments that it absolutely has to win back: the Youth and the Non-Malays.
For the “Non-Malays”, there is no other way but to start a Non-Malay Supporters club. Even PAS has a Non-Malay supporter club and fielded Non Malay candidates in some of the seats. Based on the last election, Non-Malay support for UMNO was practically 0, so even if UMNO increases its support from Non-Malays to 15% of the total segment, it will mean a massive change in the electoral outcome. A resimulation with UMNO getting 15% of the Non Malay vote means UMNO retaining power and Dato Seri Najib still as Prime Minister and not facing 21 AMLA charges.