The UMNO exodus: Its implications

The UMNO exodus: Its implications
Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, now UMNO President, is said to have eroded the confidence of these legislators and other UMNO personalities in the party.
How does one explain the UMNO exodus and what are its implications? Most of the 17 UMNO members of Parliament who have quit the party since the 14th General Election on the 9th of May 2018 cite the leadership’s lack of direction as the main reason for their decision. More than a lack of direction it is perhaps the multiple charges of corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, among other instances of power abuse facing leaders such as the former UMNO President and Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and his then deputy, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, now UMNO President, that have eroded the confidence of these legislators and other UMNO personalities in the party. When the men at the helm of an organisation are so badly tainted and tarnished with allegations of crimes of such magnitude, one should not expect the people around them to remain loyal to their authority.

There is perhaps another reason why UMNO is haemorrhaging. Because UMNO, the mainstay of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government exercised such overwhelming power for 61 years, its present situation where it has little authority, does not occupy positions of importance in society and does not enjoy the perks and privileges of high office is a huge psychological setback to the party especially its elites. This is why some of them are keen on getting back to power and are allegedly engaged in manoeuvres in that direction. It is also said that they and others are also hoping that some deal can be made with individuals in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that may help to keep UMNO bigwigs out of jail or at least lessen their travails.

The larger political ecology may in fact induce machinations of this sort. The PH government commands only about a third of the Malay vote. Some PH leaders may be tempted to boost the coalition’s electoral strength through defections from UMNO engineered through various tactics. More concretely, a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat will allow the PH to initiate critical constitutional amendments as part of its reform agenda.  Within the four party PH coalition, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the third in terms of its seat tally. It may want to improve its standing through cross-overs and the like. Then there are the followers of the two principal actors in PH, Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) who may harbour adversarial attitudes from the past and are therefore determined to pursue agendas ostensibly on behalf of the two men which may in fact jeopardise the agreement that the two and other PH leaders have forged in relation to the transition of power in a couple of years.
In order to check the adverse consequences of power centred politics of this kind impacting upon state and society as a whole, Mahathir and Anwar should be on the same page when it comes to acting firmly against wrongdoers in the UMNO top brass or in any other organisation. Any deal with the corrupt and the greedy would be an unforgiveable betrayal of the cause of justice and the commitment to reform. It would make a mockery of the PH government’s much trumpeted dedication to the supremacy of the rule of law.

At the same time, the four parties in the PH coalition should not worry about their varying strengths. They should instead forge a viable relationship at the grassroots, at the level of branches and divisions. The PH should emerge as a cohesive entity at the very base of the coalition with an identity of its own that surpasses the individual identities of its components. This is something that the BN did not achieve in its 45 year existence.

In continuing with its reform agenda, it would be only logical for the PH to introduce an anti-defection law which would require that an elected legislator who quits her party to join another party or becomes an independent legislator vacates her seat. This means that she is returning her agendas ostensibly on behalf of the two men which may in fact jeopardise the agreement that the two and other PH leaders have forged in relation to the transition of power in a couple of years.

In order to check the adverse consequences of power centred politics of this kind impacting upon state and society as a whole, Mahathir and Anwar should be on the same page when it comes to acting firmly against wrongdoers in the UMNO top brass or in any other organisation. Any deal with the corrupt and the greedy would be an unforgiveable betrayal of the cause of justice and the commitment to reform. It would make a mockery of the PH government’s much trumpeted dedication to the supremacy of the rule of law.

At the same time, the four parties in the PH coalition should not worry about their varying strengths. They should instead forge a viable relationship at the grassroots, at the level of branches and divisions. The PH should emerge as a cohesive entity at the very base of the coalition with an identity of its own that surpasses the individual identities of its components. This is something that the BN did not achieve in its 45 year existence.

In continuing with its reform agenda, it would be only logical for the PH to introduce an anti-defection law which would require that an elected legislator who quits her party to join another party or becomes an independent legislator vacates her seat. This means that she is returning her mandate to the voters in her constituency. It is a principle of democratic governance that we should uphold which in no way infringes upon a legislator’s right of association.

The UMNO exodus, from the PH’s perspective, offers an opportunity to introduce changes and reforms which will benefit society. For UMNO, this is the moment for deep soul-reaching which must lead to some bold and brave acts --- acts which many in the leadership stratum do not want to undertake for their own selfish ends.


* Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Perpaduan Malaysia (YPM).

** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.



 


Tag: UMNO, General Election, members of Parliament, Zahid Hamidi, UMNO President, Najib Razak, haemorrhaging, Barisan Nasional, BN, Pakatan Harapan, Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar Ibrahim, PKR, Bersatu


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