Money politics rule the day whenever there is an Umno election and candidates must have a strong war chest to vie for top positions.
Umno’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with the election of office bearers has always been a divisive event. The most sought after post of the president had in the past been the cause of a major split in Umno leadership with the disruptive results on the political stability of the nation.
In 1987 Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah put up a strong challenge on Dr Mahathir for the post of Umno’s president. He lost by a small margin and challenged the AGM election result which caused Umno to be declared as an illegal party by the Kuala Lumpur High Court. Dr Mahathir formed Umno Baru (New Umno) and blocked Tengku Razaleigh from being a member of Umno Baru.
As a protest, Tengku Razaleigh formed a new party called PARTI SEMANGAT 46 which succeeded in defeating Umno Baru in several Parliamentary and State by-elections.
The political climate became unstable with BN Government being challenged by a strong coalition of opposition parties led by Tengku Razaleigh.
Subsequent years saw Anwar Ibrahim toppling Ghafar Baba from the post of Umno’s deputy president and his next target was for the president’s post. Unfortunately for Anwar, Dr Mahathir got wind of his ambitious plan.
The following years saw Anwar being sacked from Umno and losing his position as the deputy prime minister and the party’s deputy president. The whole episode culminated with Anwar being convicted of sodomy charges.
That’s how bad the power struggle in Umno during AGM was and how precarious the position of the president which is always the subject of a political scramble for power, a scramble that will weaken and split UMNO.
Money Politics In Umno
Money politics rule the day whenever there is an Umno election. Let it be for the position of president or other Office Bearers, we are talking of millions being spent by the candidates eyeing their respective positions. Candidates must have a war chest for the top position of president, deputy president and the three vice-presidents.
Money has to be spent to get the support of the Umno’s division chiefs from Perlis to Sabah and then the need to get the support of the Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings. Dinners at leading hotels to meet the divisional leaders and it’s an open secret for Ang Pow being given to the senior divisional leaders that attended the gatherings.
A candidate can expect to lose any position he contested should he not indulge in money politics as he will be regarded as a selfish candidate, thus begin the campaign trail made colourful by money politics.
The advantage to the incumbent cabinet ministers should the Umno election be held before the General Election (GE) is, that they have at their disposal all the resources of their respective ministries to garner support from the UMNO Divisional leaders.
Democracy in Umno is very much linked to money politics.
Power Struggle Of Umno’s Team A And Team B
There are two teams in Umno which we shall call Team A and Team B. The recent Umno Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) was made necessary due to the different agendas of these groups.
Team A is aligned with Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the president of Umno while Team B is aligned with Ismail Sabri the prime minister.
All the while Team A has maintained that the Umno party election is to be held after the GE which is due latest by May 2023. The rationale is to prevent ugly campaigns and money politics that will weaken Umno, definitely not a good scenario for the party to face the GE.
Team B on the other hand insisted that Umno hold its party election immediately before the GE. A number of Umno ministers and their cronies are in Team B. Their fear is that Zahid as president of Umno and chairman of Barisan Nasional (BN) will not nominate them as BN candidates for the coming GE.
This fear is justifiable as they have been critical of Zahid while serving as cabinet ministers, and have shown support for former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statements in 2020 and 2021.
Team B is banking on Ismail Sabri as PM to challenge Zahid for President of UMNO while the UMNO ministers will contest other senior party positions. It’s almost certain that Team B will be victorious due to money politics and the PM factor.
Many divisional chiefs would be bought over by monetary rewards and GLC positions, something which Zahid would not be able to match.
To thwart the sinister agenda of Team B, Zahid called for the EGM to be held recently with a special resolution that Umno’s election is held within six months after a General Election.
Zahid and Team A are now saved by the EGM while Team B is now in troubled waters and their political future is now at the mercy of Zahid.
Will that put an end to the political struggle in UMNO? We will have to wait and see..whether the wound will heal.
Will Ismail Sabri Call For GE15 This Year?
UMNO/BN is in a jubilant mood. The success in the Melaka State Election and the triumphant victory in the recent Johor State Election is a strong indicator of voters’ support. Huge crowds could be seen whenever Najib made his presence. The large Chinese crowd in Johor is a clear signal that Chinese voters had returned to support BN candidates. Their frustration with DAP and the bungling PH government could clearly be seen in the Johor State Election. For the first time in many years, DAP candidates were trounced in what was known as DAP strongholds. In fact the Chinese community seemed to welcome Najib as a hero of the people.They have not forgotten the help for the Chinese schools in Johor and BN moderate policy towards Chinese education.
Most of all, the Chinese community benefited from nine years of tremendous growth under the Najib administration. Thus the call by UMNO/ BN for the General Election to be held this year.
This is the clear message to Ismail Sabri. But the latter seems to indulge in a dilly-dally game. He seems inclined to wait for a clearance from the Cabinet before advising His Majesty Agung to dissolve Parliament. The problem is Muhyiddin and PAS ministers dominate the cabinet and they are in no hurry for a General Election after being badly trounced in the recent Johor State Election.
The Federal Constitution is clear that it is the Prime Minister that advises His Majesty Agong to dissolve Parliament. However, conventions require the Cabinet to act collectively. It is the collective decision of the Cabinet that binds the PM.
A likely solution is for Ismail to strike a bargain with PAS and some of the ex PKR ministers. That will leave Muhyiddin out in the cold. Ismail Sabri seems to be at the crossroads. If he fails to call for a General Election this year, its very likely Zahid will not give him a nomination form as a BN candidate.
That may be the end of his political career in UMNO… and as a BN poster boy.
Najib And The Bongbong Marcos Factor
After years of political turmoil and successive Presidents, the Filipinos at last came to grips with reality. They have realised the need for a strong leadership that can place food on their tables. Ferdinand Marcos’ iron rule has been forgiven. They have moved on from the tantalising stories of Imelda Marcos’ 1,000 shoes. The lies and wild allegations against the Marcos had been cleared up. What matters now is the hope that Bongbong Marcos will ensure political stability with the support of the Duterte clans… and thus bring economic growth to a country that was once a leading powerhouse in this region.
Back home, we find a similar situation happening here. The need for political stability and the need for economic growth. Malaysia is currently behind some African states largely due to bungling policies of the PH Government.vThe achievements made by Najib over nine years as PM were scuttled away by 22 months of PH administration. Even with the largest Cabinet in history, Malaysia is still beset with political instability and slow economic growth.
Thus the growing talks of Najib making a comeback to Putrajaya. Official visits by Singapore ministers to Najib strengthen the talks. The recent Najib-Anwar debate is a strong indicator of Najib’s command of the economic situation compared to Anwar’s rabble-rousing rhetorics. Thanks to Najib we got MRT, LRT, ECRL, HSR, TUN RAZAK EXCHANGE, BANDAR MALAYSIA… some of the best infrastructures in our times.
In simple words, Malaysians got food on their table during Najib’s days as PM.
Looks like ALL IS FORGIVEN. COME BACK NAJIB. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Kamarudin Ahmad is a social activist and a lawyer by profession and occasionally writes for the New Malaysia Herald (NMH). He is also an Umno member. The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of NMH.