Umno in strategic position to change its future course

Umno has officially declared that it will not join the Perihatin Nasional (PN) coalition in the next general elections. That might be a good move on Umno’s part if it reflects grassroots disillusionment with its coalition partner junior party Bersatu which wants to call the shots.

That grassroots disillusionment is a good sign; it shows that Umno’s Malay grassroots have realised that Umno’s majority position in PN will not be to its advantage if it undermines Bersatu’s desire to remain in power.

With Umno out of PN, PN can no longer claim that it is a Malay majority coalition. Any other coalition is now poised to assume the role of a Malay-majority grouping if Umno plays its cards wisely. Umno should be prepared to sacrifice its “court cluster” leaders facing criminal charges in court for the sake of political survival.

If Umno has severed ties with PN from the next general elections, why doesn’t it withdraw from PN now? It should heed its adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s call for its “cluster of ministers” to resign from PN now to uphold its dignity.

Umno MPs in PN may not want to resign for the same reason PN doesn’t want to resign although it can’t prove its majority. These Malay MPs need to be in government to have access to funds to pour into their constituencies to ensure continued support.

Giving funds to MPs is not the issue. But to deprive Opposition MPs or coalition MPs who do not support the PN of such funds is childishly punitive.

But, that’s the PN’s style of leadership. Unable to use theirs skills or (perhaps, lacking in them) and resources at their disposal through negotiations and proper management, they resort to the big stick. If you don’t support PN leader Muhyiddin Yassin, we’ll punish you. If people will not abide by our requests with regard to covid-19, we’ll  seek emergency to force compliance. (They never thought that maybe they should dialogue with stakeholders to get their support or maybe they just don’t have abilities to do that and so threaten them with emergency.) If Umno threatens to pull out of PN, we’ll seek emergency from the Agong. If MPs want to question our legitimacy, we’ll advise the Agong to prorogue Parliament.

We need laws to protect the people from leaders who abuse their position in government for self-serving  interests. Any new government must also consider levelling the playing field for all MPs. Instead of the ruling government determining how much of government funds each MP gets, MPs’ allocations should be determined by Parliament with every MP getting the same amount. The allocation must be disbursed irrespective of which coalition is in government.

This will remove the need to switch parties or stay in government illegitimately in order to get funds to pacify voters so as to win elections.

So, yes, it is obvious why PN won’t resign and neither would Umno’s cluster of ministers in PN, although the latter should if it has any sense of dignity and allegiance and loyalty to the party.

The loss of government funds would only be for a short while if the new government reforms fund allocations to MPs. Hence, it would be advantageous for Umno’s cluster of ministers to resign. It shows they can’t be bought and that might work in their favour in the next general elections.

To make things easier, it might be better for Umno to pull out of PN now, thus, its cluster of ministers will have no choice but to resign. If they don’t, it means they have interests outside of Umno and that’s a big risk they would be taking because it may cost them votes in the next general elections.

If Umno pulls out of PN now, Parliament must be convened to test PN’s majority. If it loses a confidence vote, PN must resign.

That’s a cheaper and constitutionally correct way of testing support for a party or coalition then wielding the big stick of a general election which is very costly and will be disruptive in the aftermath of the pandemic and in which Bersatu stands to lose rather than gain.

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