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Umno’s uphill struggle: no new ideas and no good candidates

Mon 2011-Dec-19 @ +08 11:31:41 am

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• Umno lacks infusion of new blood, new ideas, strategies
• Little real change in reforms, crony companies get  contracts
• Umno assembly finessed Cowgate and money politics
• Critics question if Najib’s intended reforms merely ersatz
• Good candidates tainted (Shahrizat) or unacceptable (Khairy)
• PKR similar problems but attracts younger candidates
• PAS a magnet for Muslims professionals; some Malay members in DAP
• New voters and young voters a big factor in next election
• Unfair seat distribution gives Umno key to victory

Political scientist Johan Saravanamuthu’s assessment of Umno and the current political landscape, in an article for Aliran. Johan was professor of political science at University Sains Malaysia, Penang. He and his wife Maznah now live in Singapore, where he is senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Condensed from Can Umno re-invent itself? Aliran (17 December 2011)

The implicit question that was before the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) at its just concluded General Assembly was whether this 3.4m strong political party could overcome its present crisis. The party has the uphill task of recapturing a two-thirds majority in parliament, not to say four state governments.

Many problems continue to trouble Umno and the party seemingly lacks the infusion of new blood, new ideas and strategies to deal with the Opposition.

Moreover, money politics reared its ugly head yet again when the women’s wing leader, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, found herself embroiled in a multimillion-dollar “Cowgate” scandal of a RM250m soft loan to a cattle-rearing company run by her husband and children. At least one Umno parliamentarian has called for Shahrizat to step down but the assembly managed to finesse the issue.

Adding to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s problems was Malaysia’s slippage for the third consecutive year from 4.5 to 4.3 points in the Corruption Perceptions Index. Many critics continue to question if [Najib’s] intended reforms have been merely ersatz. Najib has been forced to periodically deny that his policies affect the Bumiputera policy.

If truth be told, even with the implementation of the New Economic Model and government and economic transformation programmes, there has been little palpable change. Umno-favoured companies have continued to receive lucrative contracts, the egregious case being that of the mega RM36bn Mass Rapid Transit project in the Klang Valley. The giant construction company MMC-Gamuda, linked to prominent Umno-friendly tycoons, will be the main beneficiary.

Predictably, Najib’s opening speech at the Umno Assembly was pitched at problems of the party in the face of an impending 13th general election. The sound bites were of a party facing a major watershed and its need to overcome failed past practices. Najib identified 10 game-changing events and opined that the eleventh had to do with young voters and the new media.

The Prime Minister may indeed have put his finger on a crucial election variable, some 2.58m newly registered i.e. young voters out of 16m eligible voters. The number of people who would actually vote could be about 10m with 1.7m young voters constituting 17 per cent of the electorate.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) lags behind the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in voter registration, with the latter signing up twice as many new voters during the first six months of 2010.

One of the major problems facing Umno was having capable candidates. Unfortunately good candidates are hard to come by and capable leaders are either tainted like Shahrizat or politically unacceptable like Khairy Jamaluddin.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has similar problems and saw some of its leaders leave the party but has the advantage of attracting younger candidates. PKR’s partners, the Islamic party, Pas, has also been a magnet for Muslims professionals and the Democratic Action party (DAP) has successfully recruited some Malay members.

What Umno has going for it is the fact that electoral constituencies give an inordinate weighting to rural seats, mostly in Umno stronghold areas. Urban constituencies, with the predominant number of voters, command less than 50 per cent of all seats. Sarawak and Sabah, which command 56 parliamentary constituencies, make the two states something of an insurance policy for the BN.

Could the presence of the large number of new voters tip the scale away from any large victory (or even for a loss) for Najib and his coalition partners? In these changing times, Umno’s role as Malaysia’s ruling political party faces many complex and formidable – some would argue insurmountable – challenges.

READ FULL ARTICLE: Can Umno re-invent itself? (

  1. Mon 2011-Dec-19 @ +08 13:31:22 pm 13:31

    I think the deceitful and corrupted Umno morons are not lack of any new ideas but sad to say all the morons never had any ideas to begin with. Therefore it is not a surprise at all that these morons just don’t have any, not to mention any new ones.
    One thing for sure they do know is how to enrich and corrupt themselves and that is why Malaysia in spite of all the natural resources the country has, they still are in the third world and keep borrowing and keep borrowing until they join U.S, Italy and Greece just only to name a few countries, with billion of debts. How sad and how risky are the contributors of EPF after the country has no more funds to pay for the civil servants, buy more submarines and planes. The government will then have their appointed lackeys ‘invest in the very secured Malaysian government bonds’ with the contributors’ funds ? Also do you know how much of the contributors’ retirement funds are now ‘invested’ in the many high risk businesses. Just to pacify the contributors’ feeling that their money are safe with them they will demonstrate to the public a small percentage in private hospitals, roads and plantations. But this is only a small percentage compared with their mega ‘investments’ with the government ! Any wonder why the EPF’s ‘investments are kept confidential.

  2. Alan Newman. NZ permalink
    Wed 2011-Dec-21 @ +08 18:08:12 pm 18:08

    UMNO is rotten to the core. Najib:“I would like to stress here that I have never interfered in MACC’s operations. They are independent and free to carry out their investigations on anyone.” When I read this I fell off my chair and went rolling on the floor laughing.
    Your MACC was grilling & murdering Teoh Beng Hock till early morning hours, over some trivial things, when there were and still are crooked ministers whose atrocities are a million times bigger. The whole world is calling for Sarawak Taib’s arrest! Invvolving multi-billions. With letters addressed to Najib & MACC. Mr PM, where is you integrity, morality and credibility now? ZERO. So is Mahathir’s. Alan Newman, NZ


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