Can Umno perform in the six state elections?

AS THE curtain drew to a close on the 2023 Umno general assembly yesterday, a cloud of uncertainty remained over the party ahead of the coming legislative assembly elections in six states.

Events at the general assembly have done little to dispel the perception of infighting and division within Umno’s ranks; questions abound on whether the party can turn its fortunes around in time.

Several Umno grassroots leaders told FMT that it could be “too late” to inform regular grassroots members about the party’s direction and about its cooperation with Pakatan Harapan and especially with DAP.

They said these grassroots members played a crucial role in communicating with voters during the campaigning period.

“If these grassroots members don’t get the right messaging (from the party leadership), they will not go to the ground to campaign,” said a grassroots leader from Tapah who wished to remain anonymous.

“In the event that the proper messaging on Umno’s cooperation with DAP is not relayed to the grassroots, there’s a possibility that these members will jump to Bersatu as they believe that party champions Malay rights.”

Umno and DAP were longtime rivals before becoming partners in Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government.

A grassroots leader from Johor said if Ahmad Zahid Hamidi remains as party president, Umno’s standing among voters will further decline after its dismal performance at the general election in November.

Umno won only 26 parliamentary seats, its lowest-ever representation in the Dewan Rakyat.

“At the same time, Zahid’s issue is his persona as he is not as approachable compared to former Umno president Najib Razak. This will in turn affect younger voters, who want someone approachable,” the grassroots leader said.

An Umno Youth leader said it was tough for Zahid to run the party.

“We (Umno Youth) just don’t see eye to eye with Zahid and do not have much faith in his leadership. With him in charge, we cannot progress,” he said.

Umno Youth chief Dr Akmal Saleh has denied claims that the wing was in conflict with Zahid, adding that there was nothing but respect for the party president.

However, the Youth leader said despite being on “good terms” with Zahid, the youth wing still had its own views that were not necessarily aligned with those of the party president.

With these issues within the party yet to be resolved, Umno’s prospects for the state elections remain up in the air. – FMT