Why Umno wanted Zahid to win

By Zharif Badrul

First, let’s take a step back.

During the presidential debate, the candidates could be categorised as the following:

One was apologetic and – surprise! – opportunist;

One seemed relaxed and comfortable in his own skin; and

One was playing the same cards and reading from the same old script.

As it turns out, the last candidate won and many of us were apparently surprised by the result… but were we?

Only Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said that he would not open Umno’s membership to non-Malays. He said he would ensure that Malay and Muslim rights are protected under the Federal Constitution, and he sniped at the finance minister over the national language issue.

Not only that, while Khairy Jamaluddin and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah admitted that Umno had lost the confidence of the rakyat, Zahid relied on the analysis by Astro Awani saying that Umno won 46% of the seats during GE14, and fiercely blamed the other coalition parties for their election loss.

Finally, Zahid was the only one who talked about the party’s frozen accounts.

Umno members wanted someone who could stand up and have the guts to protect the party’s traditions and status quo. They did not want their leader to appear as weak and to publicly admit to mistakes. They would rather blame other team members in the event of defeat. They wanted their leader to explore the possibility of teaming up with PAS and materialising the Malay-Muslim agenda. They desperately wanted a hero.

Obviously, the party will demand total loyalty from its members and expect total obedience from the coalition parties. Its “big brother” status in Barisan Nasional will remain unchallenged, and if the other coalition parties do not exit, they are doomed to be bullied by Umno.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) will face tough times as well. Umno will find ways to stir up and provoke sentiments of race and religion, and PH needs to prevent such narratives from appealing to the rakyat.

It is imperative for the new government to put in place effective preventive measures such as the National Harmony Bill. Never allow the same cards to be played again, as we are moving forward to the new Malaysia.

Otherwise, our future generation will hear the same old script repeatedly read out by the new government in the next election.

Zharif Badrul is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.