Analyst: Zahid as head shows Umno members not open to change

Zahid has a lot of influence, especially among senior Umno members.

KOTA KINABALU: A political analyst says the results of the recent Umno election which saw Ahmad Zahid Hamidi winning the president’s post show that many party members are having trouble accepting the need for reform.

Tony Paridi Bagang.

Tony Paridi Bagang of Universiti Teknologi Mara said although some members wanted wholesale change in the party leadership, the majority still found it difficult to embrace a new way of thinking.

Speaking to FMT, he said it was no surprise that the former deputy prime minister had emerged the victor in the race with Khairy Jamaluddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Khairy, the former Umno Youth chief, was Zahid’s closest competitor, with party veteran Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li, trailing far behind.

“Members decided to elect Zahid instead of Khairy or Ku Li as their new president. The ‘orang lama’ (old hands) factor is probably one of the factors that led to Khairy’s defeat,” Bagang said.

“I see it partly as the members still not being daring enough to go against the norms of the party. Most members might have been caught between going for an overhaul with a young and daring leader, or choosing someone who is more influential and powerful,” he said, referring to Khairy and Zahid.

Umno’s future in Sabah

Bagang said what Zahid, who was previously acting Umno president, did from now on would be vital especially in determining the party’s future in Sabah.

Noting that Zahid had a lot of influence, especially among senior members, Bagang said the reforms he put in place would contribute to the level of acceptance received by Umno.

He added that those who voted for Zahid could view this as an opportunity to revamp Umno and rebuild the people’s trust in the party.

“If he fails, it may give clear justification for the party members to want new people to lead the party.”

Bagang said it was also important to note the “encouraging” voter support for Khairy.

Khairy obtained the votes of 61 divisions while Zahid won 99. Tengku Razaleigh only managed to get 30 votes.

On a related matter, Bagang said Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) should not view Zahid’s presidency as a threat to its intention to spearhead Gabungan Bersatu, a loose alliance between PBS and Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR).

“It is time for PBS to prove that it is firm and bold to continue fighting for the people’s rights without being undermined or pressured by Umno,” he said.

He said there was added tension between Zahid and PBS because of his controversial request to the party to “lend” the Matunggong state seat to Umno in the last election.

Although the matter was settled amicably between the parties, he said, it had left a negative impression among many Sabahans.

PBS forged Gabungan Bersatu with STAR after leaving BN following the May 9 general election.

PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan invited assemblymen and members of Umno and former Sabah BN components United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) to join PBS as party members.

Upko is now part of the Parti Warisan Sabah-led government together with Pakatan Harapan, while PBRS has not joined any coalition since leaving BN.

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