Economy will be main driving point at Umno assembly, says report

awang-pawi-umnoPETALING JAYA: The five-day Umno general assembly, which begins on Tuesday, will likely see the party leadership putting aside racial rhetoric in favour of a stance to publicise the improving economy and promote stability in the country.

A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report yesterday cited political analysts as predicting that there was unlikely to be any significant tussle for posts due to the looming 14th general election (GE14) due by August next year, with the economy being the key focus.

The report cited Awang Azman Awang Pawi, a politics professor at Universiti Malaya (UM), as saying that rank-and-file Umno members would probably raise concerns about rising food and fuel costs.

“The general election is more important than party positions,” he said.

“There’s no point winning party elections if Umno loses in the general election or doesn’t perform up to expectations.

“If Umno’s share of seats in Parliament decreases in the next election, Umno will push Najib to step down just like Abdullah Badawi,” he added.

Awang was referring to the former prime minister who was pressured to resign in April 2009 after leading Barisan Nasional (BN) to its worst electoral outing in March 2008 when it lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament and lost five states to the opposition.

In the last general election in May 2013, BN, under current prime minister and Umno president Najib Razak, won 133 of the Dewan Rakyat’s 222 seats, including 88 that were won by Umno.

BN had also won the states of Perak and Kedah, which had been wrested by the opposition in the previous election.

The SCMP also quoted Saleena Begum Saleem, an associate fellow at Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, as saying that the party’s leadership would now emphasise on a better future.

“Umno leaders will drive home the point that the government has successfully steered the country through difficult times and that better times lie ahead,” she said.

Meanwhile, Umno Youth executive councillor Rahman Hussin said there was prevailing anxiety among the grassroots about the state of the economy and its impact on the common people.

He said this meant that the party’s leaders would not be left completely off the hook on the economy.

“We are all raring to go for the general election… This is the right opportunity to tell delegates and the electorate to believe in us and return us to power,” he was quoted as saying.

“Despite the strong economic performance, the grassroots still have some concerns, for example, on whether the average Joe is benefiting,” he added.

On Nov 7, Bank Negara Malaysia announced that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a faster pace of 6.2% in the third quarter of 2017 compared with 4.3% in the same period last year.

Malaysia also saw a growth rate of 5.8% in the second quarter of this year and 5.6% in the first quarter.

BNM said the economy was on course to register a growth rate close to the upper range of the official projection of 5.2-5.7% for the whole of 2017.