PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has dismissed the notion that Umno is at a dead end following the departure of several top leaders, one of whom joined Pakatan Harapan (PH) last night, and the criminal charges against several others.
Kamarul Zaman Yusoff told FMT that the exit of these leaders could in fact help the party renew itself.
He acknowledged that Umno would be seriously affected by their departures, as well as any future exit of other top leaders. However, he cautioned that it was premature to sideline the party “just like that”.
“Umno is still a party with rich traditions and strong grassroots support because of what it represents.
“If anything, (their exit) could actually facilitate the party’s rejuvenation, replacing old tainted leaders with fresh clean faces.”
A string of Umno leaders had left the party after its defeat in the May 9 polls. Some quit while others were sacked.
Jeli MP Mustapa Mohamed and Kimanis MP Anifah Aman left, along with Masjid Tanah MP Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, Bagan Serai MP Noor Azmi Ghazali and Bukit Gantang MP Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal.
Mustapa, a former Umno Supreme Council member, joined Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party PPBM last night.
Umno veterans Daim Zainuddin and Rafidah Aziz meanwhile were sacked days before the general election for campaigning for Pakatan Harapan.
Umno is also struggling with its public image following the slew of criminal charges against its former president Najib Razak and its current leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Kamarul said he believed Umno just needed some time to “repair” itself, acknowledging however that this would take a while.
“It will take some time for Umno to instil a new culture as the ‘money and power’ culture is deeply embedded.
“The sooner top leaders commit themselves (to change), the better it will be for Umno.”
Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi meanwhile said Umno’s fate depended on its grassroots support.
“Umno’s Supreme Council members only make up a small percentage of the party’s membership,” he said.
“Grassroots members still make the final call on any major party decision, including who they want to include in the Supreme Council line-up.”
He dismissed calls from within the party for Zahid’s resignation, saying this would not affect Umno’s support from members.
“There are about three million members, as previously claimed by Umno, but they are not the ones who are causing trouble.
“It is the top leadership which is seen as fighting against one another.”
He added that the trend now appeared to be voting for change, not for individual personalities.
“Whichever party is able to bring about change, this party will have the support of the people.”
He also criticised Umno Youth for calling for Zahid’s resignation, cautioning that people would see this as the party airing dirty linen in public.
“These are internal party matters. They should not have publicised these issues on social media. They should have solved them behind closed doors.”
When asked on Umno’s chances of survival, he said the party would be able to form a strong opposition front if it cleaned up its leadership structure.
“All is not lost for Umno,” he added. “In any ruling party, there is bound to be political sabotage and infighting. This is why Umno will still find its place in the current political landscape.”