PETALING JAYA: An analyst has advised the new Umno president to be elected today to reposition the party to retain its spirit of Malay nationalism but with a twist.
Wong Chin Huat, of Penang Institute, says Umno must modernise itself or it might as well ditch all political dreams of bringing down PH before the next polls.
“It must shed racism and hooliganism and adopt a gentleman’s image.
“It must learn to operate as a democratic opposition party and demand greater democratisation,” he told FMT.
Umno’s 191 divisions are currently in the midst of voting for their new president, deputy president and Supreme Council members.
Five candidates are standing for president, among them three heavyweights — Bagan Datuk MP Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is the vice-president discharging the duties of the president, second is Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, and Rembau MP and former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
Wong advised the new president to start talking about the party’s institutional reforms, especially three reforms that are vital for its survival as the main opposition party.
Wong said the first would be to decentralise state governments for them to have more power and resources. This will allow states like Pahang, which is now under the Barisan Nasional, to survive and be a base for the party’s revival.
“Secondly, it should push for local elections so that its grassroot leaders outside Pahang and Perlis can win as councillors and are less likely to jump to Pakatan Harapan or PAS (in Kelantan and Terengganu) due to pressure.”
The third change would be the electoral system itself.
Wong said the first-past-the-post, or winner-takes-all system, when it wins the majority is good for big parties but not for Umno.
He said it may kill Umno before it bounces back to benefit from the first-past-the-post system as Umno is likely to win only about 20-25% of the vote at best in the next five years.
Due to that, he said Umno under the new leadership has to be realistic.
“Accept its role as PH’s loyal opposition.
“It cannot return to power without winning back the non-Malay support but this won’t happen so soon.”
He advised the party not to alienate non-Malays in the process of retaining its Malay-based support.
He said Umno must stop playing the communal zero-sum game, with the non-Malays as the bogeyman, as the tactic did not work in last month’s 14th general election.
To survive, Wong advised Umno must find a new discourse of communal empowerment.