UMNO election has always spark interest to people outside the party. Traditionally, the UMNO President will become the PM of Malaysia. Most of those who are elected to senior position within UMNO often have position in the govenrnment. In short, UMNO party election do have an important bearing on the national political landscape.
Malaysia, whether the state or federal government is made up of ruling parties. It’s a zero sum game as far as government positions is concerned.
For the first time in party history, the top leadership of the 3 wings of UMNO – Wanita, Puteri and Youth and the parent body of UMNO except the President are seeing keen contest.
By Thursday night, Najib will be confirmed as the President of UMNO and the following week to be sworn in as the 6th Prime Minister of Malaysia. Najib has waited patiently for more than 30 years to this day. Najib will bring to his office his wealth of experience, both at the state and federal, a good brain, a good listener and a friendly manner but yet firm. He will be facing immense challenges of trying to rebuild UMNO and BN. He has to face the economic slowdown and a likely economic recession that Malaysia faces. He needs all the wisdom and experience, luck and support to overcome these 2 immense challenges. It’s not going to be an easy job.
UMNO needs to undergo an overhaul of change from the quota system to qualify for party election to money politics and a small number of leaders afflicted with arrogance of power. Like all parties in power, for a substantial time, complacency sets in and there will be a lot of self-serving party officials. This is a general illness that afflicts all political parties.
From the time I became Wakil Rakyat in 1986 to my last election in 2004, I can see a significant change in the behaviour and work attitude of some UMNO leaders at branches, divisions and even at state level. Somehow, a lot of grassroots leaders have lost their fire in the belly or passion in their work. Generally, they are better educated and enjoy a higher standard of living compared to the 80s. I notice also that there are more concerns with the trapping of wealth and position. Some can ill-afford it but have to put up with the false front to maintain the gaya of life.
With a higher level of education and standard of living, some of the members have lost touch with the grassroots who remain very dedicated and committed to party struggle. Some have become aloof and believe that whatever they have, power, position and wealth will be in perpetuality. However, I must admit that there are still a lot of UMNO leaders who are still loyal and dedicated who served and work without monetary consideration. If UMNO leadership can inspire a change among the grassroots leaders to work hard to win rakyat’s support, then UMNO can continue to enjoy the support of Malay masses.
Often, some UMNO wakil rakyat after election hardly visit the non-Malay constituencies. They often leave this in care of component parties of BN – MCA, MIC or Gerakan and this can be a fatal mistake when the component party leadership are weak at the local level. Often local wakil rakyat has to shoulder the blame and face the music. This may be one of the important reasons for the erosion of support for UMNO candidates within the constituency. Traditionally, mixed constituencies have been stronghold of BN until the 308 election where mixed constituencies became the Achilles heel for the defeat of BN. So, one of the significant change in BN wakil rakyat is that they must be able to reach out to all races, failing to do so will cost them dearly in the coming election.
Reaching to the young will be the greatest challenge for any political party in Malaysia. More than one third of Malaysia population is within 15 – 40 age group. While a greater percentage have access to higher education, more articulate and have better understanding of their rights and be more critical of the government of the day, they often show no interest for grassroots political activities. A lot become just armchair critics.
Often how to get them engage constructively would be the most difficult challenge to both the political divide. The image and perception game becomes important and this has worked. In general, UMNO and BN are viewed negatively by the younger generation.
The new media with a lot of bloggers have only served to aggravate the situation. I notice lots of bloggers are often arm-chaired critics and a lot of them do not seem to understand the political realities in this country. While it is good that the younger generation is fired with idealism, they should be more grounded with realities rather than make believe. Until and unless BN can engage these younger generations, I feel that we face a monumental task of changing their negative perception towards UMNO and BN.
Congratulations to Sharizat for winning the Wanita Chief, Khairy for winning the Youth Chief and Rosnah who became the new Puteri UMNO Chief.