'Umno facing voter confidence crisis' - Analysts

Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
Mohd Faizul Haika Mat Khazi
14 Dec 2023 09:37am

SHAH ALAM - The recent defeat in the Kemaman by-election clearly signals that Umno led by Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is now facing a crisis of confidence among Malay-Muslim voters including the party's supporters.

In fact, political analysts predict that Umno may lose badly and once again be rejected by Malay-Muslim voters including its own loyal voters in the 16th General Election (GE16).

That possibility could happen if Umno failed to deal with the war of perception and the rise of the green wave or support for Perikatan Nasional (PN) which was increasing including in West Coast states such as Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Penang and Johor.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Perdana Centre, Razak Faculty of Technology and Informatics Lecturer Associate Professor Dr Mazlan Ali said in fact, the period of declining support for Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno had already started before they joined the Unity Government or GE15.

He said everything started when Umno/BN led by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament in the 2014 GE and continued during the era of Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Zahid as President.

"The situation got worse when a majority of Umno core voters, especially young people, rejected Umno in the last GE15 and chose PN because it was considered more for the plight and welfare of Malay-Muslims than BN and Pakatan Harapan (PH).

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"Losses after losses suffered by Umno/BN in GE14 and GE15 forced them to join the unity government coalition which is also a member of PH including DAP which has been considered the staunch enemy of the Malays for political survival," he told Sinar Premium.

Following that, Mazlan said, Umno was now faced with the rejection sentiment of Malay-Muslim voters following the success of the doctrine brought by PN that the party was used by PH and DAP.

"The main problem of Umno/BN right now is Malay/Islamic sentiment and the 3R issue (race, religion and royal institutions) which PN has successfully played to the effect that on-the-fence voters including Umno's own strong supporters defected to support the opposition in the State Election and the last by-elections included Kemaman.

"Many Malays still cannot accept the action of Umno/BN joining PH, especially DAP which has been the traditional 'enemy' and political enemy of the Malays," he said.

However, Mazlan said, participation in the Unity Government coalition also provides added value to Umno, especially non-Malay support for BN to replace white voters or loyal supporters among the Malays.

Meanwhile, Ilham Centre's Executive Director Hisommudin Bakar said that Umno needed to wisely manage the negative reactions of the public and its supporters towards the dismissal of party membership, Supreme Working Council Member Isham Jalil because it gave the impression that democracy and freedom of expression was dead in Umno under the leadership of Zahid.

However, Hisommudin said, in the context of the Umno, there was no other option to discipline its members following the open and extreme criticism issued by Isham through the mainstream media and his social media.

Hisommudin said that Umno's failure to deal with negative perceptions due to internal party problems has caused Malays, including BN's loyalvoters, to switch to supporting PN.

"I see many factors affecting the decline of the Malay vote to BN and Umno in addition to internal party problems.

“The Malays need a party that they can rely on and in the context of the GE15 and the previous by-elections, it is PN.

"The situation caused the majority of Malay voters, including young Malays to place their hopes on PN to elevate the Malay and Islamic agenda compared to Umno now," he said.

Hisommudin also said he was worried that Umno would suffer the same fate as Pas which previously won only a few parliamentary seats if they failed to restore the trust and support of the Malays ahead of GE16.

"I see that if Umno fails to restore the Malays' support for them, I fear they will suffer the same fate as Pas before which won less than 20 parliamentary seats in the previous GE," he said.