Why Umno should allow contest for top posts

Kamarul-ZamanUMNOPETALING JAYA: A political analyst has panned a proposal for Umno’s top two posts to go uncontested, saying the party will be exposed as hypocritical if it accepts it.

Speaking to FMT, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff of Universiti Utara Malaysia noted that Umno had been claiming to be a party practising democracy to a higher degree than its rivals.

“But how can you say you are more democratic than other parties and at the same time try to control the voice of your members?” he said.

He was commenting on a resolution passed by the Masjid Tanah Umno division and the support given to it by Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein.

Hishammuddin said in a press interview last week that a no-contest situation for Umno’s top two posts would keep the members’ focus on the 14th general election and prevent certain people from pitting party president Najib Razak against his deputy, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

However, he added that the proposal would not be raised as a motion for debate at the coming Umno general assembly.

The Umno election is not due until next year, and pundits have said it would likely take place after the general election.

Kamarul said Umno members were entitled to decide whom they want in positions of leadership.

“If Najib does well in GE14, the need for his post to be contested won’t come up,” he said. “But if the party does worse than it did in the last election, there might be calls for a contest.”

However, when asked if he believed Umno leaders would end up pushing away support by appearing to take away the grassroots’ right to vote for the party leadership, Kamarul said, “No.”

He said Umno members did not want to be seen as openly defying their leaders. “But there might be grumbles in their hearts, viewing this as some sort of hypocrisy. It goes against the winning mentality preached by the party leaders, as if they fear being challenged.”

Kamarul took note of the speculation that the Umno election will be held after GE14 and said Hishammuddin’s remarks about the party polls were premature.

In jumping the gun, he said, Hishammuddin might have unnecessarily given the public a negative view of Umno’s democratic practice.

“Umno needs to fully concentrate on GE14,” he added. “There is no need for anyone to talk about the party elections right now.”

Another analyst, Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya, said only observers from outside Umno would see Hishammuddin’s statement as contradictory to the party’s claim to be democratic.

“Umno’s grassroots members will view it differently because it is a motion to be discussed and agreed on,” he told FMT. “That is the mindset of Umno members, who will adjust the concept of democracy to the party’s best interests.”