Malaysia Dateline

Quo vadis, Umno?

Perhaps unbeknownst to many, when Umno delegates walk into the conference hall of the party’s annual general meeting tomorrow, they may make history for the party.

This is because what they decide during the meeting will make or break the party.

Will Umno rise again from the ashes of their GE 14 rout or will it fade away into the sunset? That depends on who it chooses to partner with for the coming political battle or whether it will go solo.

Right before the delegates’ eyes, these options may appear for them to deliberate and decide:

1. Going solo.

2. Accepting Bersatu, and that means joining Perikatan Nasional.

3. Partnering with only Pas.

4. Partnering with Pakatan Harapan.

Option 1: Going solo

Umno going solo includes going as a member of Barisan Nasional (BN), as the other component parties in BN have negligible electoral weight.

Umno should know by now that it is quite impossible for any party (and that includes BN) to secure on its own a parliamentary majority in any general election. And that means that the possibility to rule will only come if, and only if, the party successfully negotiates with others to form a coalition with parliamentary majority to rule after the election, if it chooses this option.

However, such an option is not preferrable as it loses the advantage of mutual electoral support that would otherwise be gained through a pre-election partnership.

Option 2: Partnering Bersatu

This option seems quite unpalatable, as Bersatu and Umno are inherent rival parties (which share the same ideology and the same electoral powerbase) that will inevitably end up fighting bitterly against each other to gain pre-eminence.

Besides, the bulk of Bersatu’s leadership are made up of former Umno leaders having defected from Umno in recent years shortly before or after GE 14 while the remaining leaders are defectors from PKR of Harapan.

Keeping in mind the current superior ruling position of Bersatu over Umno and the former’s incessant poaching of the latter’s grassroots and leaders, any prolongation of the status quo will only further emaciate Umno.

On the other hand, should Umno reject Bersatu, the latter will be completely wiped out in the coming election.

Sandwiched between the avenging Umno and Harapan, this hurriedly cobbled together party with a tiny grassroot will not be able to cross the winning margin, considering its meagre share of Malay votes and almost non-existent non-Malay support.

And Bersatu’s elimination is Umno’s permanent relief.

And hence, the assembly should find no difficulty to reject this option.

Option 3: Partnering Pas

A recent joint opinion poll conducted by Sin Chew Daily and Sinar Harian on their respective readers on which party they would vote for in the next election yield interesting results.

For Sinar Harian, whose readers are mostly Malays, the top three choices are Umno, Pas, and PKR, in that order.

However, for Sin Chew, whose readers are mostly Chinese, the top three, in descending order, are DAP, PKR, and Amanah, with Umno getting negligible votes, Bersatu and Pas almost zero support.

Granted that the readers polled by these news media do not represent the exact average of a community, the results could at least reflect the general sentiments of a sizable portion of the respective communities.

What we can read from the poll results is that the near monolithic Chinese support given to Harapan in GE 14 has remained largely intact though the voting rate may understandably be reduced this time. Corollary to that, Chinese vote for the Malay-only parties is near zero.

Keeping in mind that Malays form only slightly over 50% of the population, can a PAS-Umno union really sweep an election to gain its parliamentary majority without any non-Malay support? This is a worthy question for the think tank of Umno to look into.

The above numerical data only deals with the winnability in an election, but what about the economic and political viability of a PAS-Umno partnership running the country if it wins the election?

One is an Islamic fundamentalist, while the other a racial supremacist.

How would such a marriage of convenience for the sole purpose of gaining power impact on this multi-racial and multi-religious country?

Wouldn’t it exacerbate our already badly fragmented society?

And wouldn’t it hasten the current exodus of capital to a possible stampede?

Is this a workable political partnership to lead a country already slipping badly against our neighbours?

These are vital questions that Umno must seek proper answers to, if it wants to avoid any tragic error.

Option 4: Partnering Harapan

From sheer numerical consideration, such a partnership is a winning formula.

If Harapan (with Bersatu in it) could sweep the last general election, wouldn’t Harapan (minus Bersatu) + Umno this time sweep to greater victory? The answer should be obvious.

From the nation-building point of view, this multi-racial grouping is also the right structure for success.

Such a truly multi-racial government would at least provide the foundation for the partnership to build its superstructure.

Whether it will succeed will of course depends on whether the leaders could formulate the right policy and provide the right leadership to the people.

This idea may sound fine and dandy, but in reality, the path to the partnership of these bitter enemies is strewn with almost insurmountable obstacles.

However, understanding the following truism will help to breakdown entrenched differences and encourage common effort:

· Taking power is the pre-requisite to any attempt to reform and move the country forward. Without governing power, all good ideas and ideals remain as such and will not be transformed into reality.

· Principles of good governance like corruption-free leadership, social justice and democratic values are absolutely essential and must be adhered to if we want to build a successful nation that will benefit the people we profess to serve.

Tim and tide wait for no man

Striking up a viable Umno-Harapan partnership on sound principles will surely be a game changer that will transform the county into the next level of nation-building.

However, the conditions that currently exist that will make such a corroboration possible may be transient. Time and tide wait for no man. Seize this opportunity of a lifetime now and make the best of it.