With a little help from PAS, has Umno gotten its groove back?

Danial Dzulkifly, Azril Annuar And R. Loheswar
Umno, PAS and Barisan Nasional flags are seen in Rantau April 12, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Umno, PAS and Barisan Nasional flags are seen in Rantau April 12, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 ― After 18-months of being on the other side of the fence, Umno seems to have finally embraced its place within Malaysia Baharu.

The party now has a solid plan for GE15, which it believes revolves around Muafakat Nasional and its alliance with former enemies PAS.

While last year’s Umno Youth, Wanita and Puteri Umno’s assemblies were a muted affair, this year’s events was a stark contrast as party members and delegates appear rejuvenated, excited and driven in the debates involving the respective wings.

Party members focused their chatter and thoughts on attacking the shortcomings of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, with the war cry of Pakatan “Hancing”, as a reference to the ruling coalition’s failed election promises.

This was in contrast to last year’s AGM where the sense of shock and denial was still palpable in the air and had created a gloomy, and even lethargic atmosphere.

Back then, many were furious and had thrown their anger to recently elected leadership, which was at the time struggling to reconfigure Umno’s direction for the future.

But for many of the Umno faithful this year, the assemblies come after the party’s numerous by-elections wins, starting with Cameron Highlands, Semenyih, Rantau and most recently, Tanjung Piai.

The political cooperation among PAS and Umno, which was signed under the Muafakat National Charter, is also the most talked about topic, with many delegates calling for Umno to further enhance its relationship with the Islamist party.

The debates this year among the three wings seem to revolve around similar themes- PH’s failures and Umno’s role as the leading Opposition party.

Delegates from all three wings went through great lengths to attack PH, with remarks against Cabinet ministers who they claimed had introduced problematic policies.

Notable speakers include Selangor Umno Youth deputy chief Amin Mohd Shukor who reminded the party that it must be willing to transform and adapt to the current needs and aspirations of the people.

Some were pragmatic, such as Parit Sulong Umno Youth delegate Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid who called on the party to welcome those who had left Umno after the May 9 general election back into the party.

Fared insisted that for Umno to win federal power it must account fot every vote it could possibly get.

Puteri Umno chief Datuk Zahida Zarik Khan had set the tone for the debates by calling out PH for their supposed hypocrisy and their failure in implementing constitutional reforms.

She also asserted that the win in Tanjung Piai is proof that Barisan Nasional is not dead but would even thrive more under Muafakat Nasional.

Meanwhile, Wanita Umno members were in buoyant mood in anticipation of getting a more prominent role to play in the party. The hall was nearly full throughout the event. 

Its head, Datuk Noraini Ahmad, rallied her troops in anticipation of getting the party's constitution amended to include one woman representative to be a deputy president, something that's not been done in the party which historically only has one deputy president and three vice-presidents.

Delegates from all over filled the hall and were patient whilst listening to the suggestions and proposals to be tabled tomorrow and they seemed happy and in good spirits that come GE15, they would reclaim Putrajaya based on PH's inability to handle the bread and butter issues affecting the country.

Some division chiefs took shots at the Pakatan Harapan government and several of their ideologies such as Minister of Prime Industries Teresa Kok's suggestion that Malaysian's take a spoonful of palm oil every day for health benefits while others painted DAP as the enemy of the country.

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