Bringing Down Barisan – Is Umno Starting To Feel The Chills Of A Real Threat?

though Anwar is barred from taking part in politics, his speeches will continue to be very powerful and fiery.
Although Anwar will be barred from taking part in politics when he is released in 2017, his speeches at ceramah will continue to be very powerful and fiery if elections are held later than sooner.

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COMMENT: During a chat with some of my Malay fellow journalists, they felt that the BN would still win the next general election with a simple majority, but it had to be wary of the threats from Bersatu.

Prior to the establishment of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, Amanah — a splinter of PAS — was seen as the new hope of the opposition camp.

At a dinner late last year, I personally heard that some were very keen to join Amanah, but after Bersatu came into being, Amanah has since fallen out of favor.

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How can Bersatu pose a serious threat to Umno? I feel this could be due to several factors.

First and foremost, Bersatu can dispel the sense of insecurity among some Malays. From what we understand, many rural Malays are afraid of losing their rights, and Umno’s racial cards are therefore almost invincible in the Malay hinterland.

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For the past so many decades, PAS’ theocratic advocacy has failed to shake the foundation of Umno’s ethnic politics because the Malays need a protective umbrella that only Umno is able to provide.

One of the reasons PAS decided to break its ties with DAP was because the Malay society was largely skeptical of DAP, and the Islamist party were all the more eager to remove the last bits of fear among the rural voters.

PAS is unable to defeat Umno in the rural areas, let alone Amanah. Meanwhile, branding itself a champion of ‘pribumi’ rights, Bersatu has good prospects of taking the place of Umno in defense of Malay rights.

 Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin walks together with Former Prime Minister,Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad after International Forum of Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur. NSTP/Aizuddin Saad
Muhyiddin Yassin, right, and Dr Mahathir could deal better with the rural folk or Felda settlers who are mainly Malays.

Chairman Tun Mahathir and president Muhyiddin Yassin have all this while been spokespersons of Malay rights. Mahathir once authored the book “The Malay Dilemma’ while Muhyiddin claimed he was a Malay first, a Malaysian second.

So, if Mahathir and Muhyiddin were to speak to the rural folks or Felda settlers, they would not meet with much resistance, unlike DAP leaders.

The Malays place far more emphasis on their sense of security than other national issues. If this is what they could expect from Bersatu, then other issues its leaders preach will not fall on deaf ears.

I don’t believe rural voters will wholesale ignore the 1MDB scandal, skyrocketing goods prices and rampant corruption, but these have to be persuasive in the first place.

As former senior leaders of Umno, both Mahathir and Muhyiddin have at their finger tips how Umno operates in the rural areas, as well as the Malay mentality. They are consequently in a very much better position to topple Umno’s fortress.

We have seen that the duo have made frequent appearances in the rural areas. If they are well received there, Umno will be in hot water then.

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Umno may still have the support of the Malay voters, but a PAS free of Chinese-influenced DAP could wreck havoc in the Malay heartland in Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis and Kedah if allowed a one-on-one fight.

Umno knows very well it still has the support of majority of Malay voters as evidenced by the outcome of the recent twin by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.

So they are now redrawing the boundaries in favor of more Malay-predominant constituencies. Nevertheless, the party must also be wary of the potential risks involved.

Jorak state assemblyman Shahruddin Md Salleh’s defection to Bersatu has for the first time denied BN of its two-thirds majority in the Johor state legislative assembly.

Mahathir later warned that more defections could be expected in Perak, Terengganu and Johor before the next GE. Perhaps we will have a clearer idea very soon how real Bersatu’s threat is to Umno.

Shafie Apdal
Shafie Apdal

Former Umno vice president Shafie Apdal’s tactic to fight Umno’s racist politics in Sabah is yet another different strategy. PBS used to see the wind of change, and non-Muslims in the state are poised to play a more pivotal role this time round.

With the number of fixed deposit states dwindling, Umno will begin to feel the chill of winter.

Meanwhile, my Malay fellow journalists were of the opinion that the next GE would almost certainly be held next year because Anwar would be released at the end of 2017.

Even though Anwar is barred from taking part in politics, his speeches will continue to be very powerful and fiery. Putting Anwar and Mahathir together, the killing power is simply inestimable.

And since the elections will be held next year, anything can happen between now and then, including another go-ahead by Umno for PAS president Hadi Awang’s private bill on hudud!

Umno has taken some dominant measures of late, such as the redelineation of electoral constituencies to its own advantage. But with Bersatu now stepping up its pressure, there are fewer options left for PM Najib.

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It is not all about Yellow and Red. Violence is slowly creeping into the political scene with Umno chieftain Jamal Yunos leading the Red-Shirts in bouts of hooliganism.

Bersih 5 is just around the corner, and Sungai Besar Umno division chief Jamal Md Yunos and his Red Shirt hooligans are bound to intensify their counter-attacks, further intimidating the rule of law spirit in this country.

After three whole years of commotion, we have finally arrived at a very critical stage. Things can change for the better, but also for the worse.

For Chinese Malaysians, it’s now time to decide between a principle and a political objective. PAS was a painful lesson, but will Bersatu be just another trap as well?

  • This article was first published in mysinchew.com. The views herein are entirely that of the writer and is not necessarily endorsed by BorneoToday.