Umno’s disconnect with the general public, as evident in the party elections last weekend, will be its downfall, says PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
PETALING JAYA: The recent Umno elections which saw the likes of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Shahrizat Abdul Jalil retain their power shows the disconnect between the Malay ruling party and the Malaysian public, said PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.
That Umno members and the general public do not see eye to eye is one of the many problems that Umno is facing, paving way for it to be eventually replaced by the opposition coalition, the optimistic Seri Setia assemblyman told FMT in an exclusive interview.
“There were no major changes, it was the same lineup of leaders… people like (Home Minister) Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who takes such a hardline stand, ended up getting the highest votes (in the race for vice-presidency),” said Nik Nazmi, who is also Selangor state assembly deputy speaker.
“And then there’s Shahrizat, who was embroiled in the [National Feedlot Corporation]. Not only did she win in the Wanita elections, but before her win she was basically given an endorsement by the prime minister as his advisor on women’s affairs.”
In contrast, he pointed out that Saifuddin Abdullah, who is popular among the public for being Umno’s “voice of reason”, had failed to garner enough votes to enter the Supreme Council.
“So I think this shows that Umno’s rank and file is not interested in anything beyond following what the president wants and preserving the status quo,” he said.
The former PKR communications director also rubbished claims that Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s victory in retaining the Umno Youth chief post signalled a new, “progressive” era of Umno and the end of Mahathirism.
“Khairy did not win because of his supposed liberal or progressive views. He won because he had the endorsement of the leadership and because he’s an incumbent, and now he also has the benefit of being a minister.
“That’s why to say that the liberals have won in Umno is truly a mistaken view.”
Taking the middle ground
Nik Nazmi stressed that at this rate, Umno was going downhill, especially as it had succeeded in the past because of its “moderate” image – an image Malaysians would unlikely be able to reconcile with the party now, given the faces leading the charge.
“Umno was able, through BN and the Alliance, to galvanise support from all sections of society. But today, with what we have, Umno is increasingly becoming the sole dominant party within BN.
“The Umno model of power sharing, of galvanizing support from all races is deteriorating and is slowly being overtaken by Pakatan.”
Pointing to the recently concluded general election, Nik Nazmi said that there was no opposition coalition in the world that could win 51% of the votes in the face of restricted access to the media, a “weak” Election Commission and irregularities in the electoral process.
“Having said that, I accept that we must not be carried away, that we must be introspective. We need to deal on getting more Malay support, on Bumiputera support in Sabah and Sarawak.
“So that’s a big issue to address for us to win the next election. I think we must not get carried away in moving away from the centre.
“Why did we succeed in Election 2008 and 2013? Because we were very firm in staying in the centre. Why did Umno suffer? Because they veered away from the middle-ground,” he said.