PETALING JAYA: Umno was soundly defeated in most of the 107 seats it contested in the state assembly elections in six states held today, continuing its dismal run of electoral performances since 2008.
Preliminary results indicate that the lion’s share of Malay-majority seats in Kelantan, Terengganu, and Kedah were won by Bersatu and PAS, the two Malay-Muslim-based components of the opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional.
PN also made inroads into Malay-majority seats in Penang, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.
Political observers had predicted that another poor outing for Umno could spell trouble for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government.
The party was humbled in the 15th general election in November last year, winning only 26 parliamentary seats. The party was wiped out in seven states.
Tonight’s results are expected to lead to calls for Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, arguably Anwar’s closest ally, to step down.
Such a scenario would raise questions about the future of the unity coalition, and by extension, the federal government, as another Umno leader may not be inclined to continue the alliance with Pakatan Harapan.
Zahid had resisted calls to step down after GE15 and went on to strengthen his grip in the party with no contests for the presidency allowed in this year’s party elections.
He has also purged his critics within Umno, including former youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and former Selangor Umno chief Noh Omar.
Now, hard questions are likely to be asked again of Zahid.
Umno grassroot members are also expected to reflect on the consequences of its collaboration with PH, especially with DAP, which some top leaders were sceptical about in the aftermath of GE15.
Party insiders have warned that if changes do not follow another devastating loss, Umno would be at risk of seeing grassroot members leaving the party.
But there are also hard questions for Anwar and PH, especially over its plans to shore up support from the Malay community and whether it can rely on Umno to turn things around ahead of the next general election, which must be held by 2027 at the latest.
On paper, GE16 is still some time away, but for Umno and Anwar, the search for answers must have already begun.