KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — Umno’s focus on Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in its on-going general assembly here indicates that the Malay nationalist party views the opposition pact as a strong contender challenging its continued dominance of the political scene, say analysts.
Various Umno leaders, including party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, have warned Malaysians against voting for PR due to its alleged lack of unity and poor economic management.
Think-tank IDEAS chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan pointed out that the sentiment and arguments in Umno reflected the nature of Malaysian politics.
“I think it is a clear indication that they are gearing up for elections. Unfortunately in Malaysia, elections are always about the weakness of the other side,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
He said Umno was also playing the same game as PR as the pact had attacked the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and Umno, and had provided several policy proposals.
However, Wan Saiful noted there was a lack of policy ideas offered by Umno in the assembly, saying “I was really hoping to see some new fresh ideas.”
He said the irony was that Umno’s constant talk about PR showed it was afraid of its political opponents.
“The more they talk about enemies, the more it shows they are afraid of enemies... they actually feel Pakatan is a threat,” Wan Saiful said.
He agreed that Najib appeared to have toned down his criticisms against PR in his opening speech yesterday, but said the party wings still appeared defensive.
“The tone is still about ‘we better gear up otherwise we might lose power’,” he said, referring to the debates in the Youth, Wanita and Puteri wings.
Prof Datuk Mohamad Abu Bakar., a political analyst from Universiti Malaya (UM), said Umno was focused on its rivalry with PR because it wants to keep its status as the main political party and “definitive power” in the country.
“That is why it sees its rival PR very seriously. Now for the first time, it has to ensure Umno will remain strong and powerful,” he said, pointing to the “very real” possibility of PR destroying its dominance as “proven in the last general election”.
Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, a political analyst from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), similarly said it was “normal” for Umno to criticise PR, but said it was better for the two to compete on policies.
“I think it is normal to criticise Pakatan because Pakatan is their rival,” he said, adding “but I think it’s better to criticise on policies rather than personal.”
He said BN appeared to be lacking new ideas and placing too much focus on its traditional rural support base.
But both Azizuddin and Mohamad were quick to point out that Najib’s speech was not just limited to attacks on PR, but also touched on other issues such as his transformation policies for the country.
“Of course, to say that Umno has not been concentrating on other things is not right,” Mohamad said, saying other topics such as Umno’s achievements and glory were mentioned.
Mohamad also said Umno “has not reacted in kind” to PR’s attacks, saying that the party wants to project a different image.
“It wants to show it is different from PR, that’s why despite attacks on PR it has not gone on the same level,” he said.
Umno delegates appeared to support Mohamad’s view, saying the party would not use harsh language when dealing with the federal opposition.
“Umno does not use bahasa keras (coarse language), this is not Umno’s culture. This is PAS and PKR’s culture. We don’t use budaya marah. The most important thing is that our country is developed, all are happy.
“We are going to change, and the young generation will come to Umno,” Ampang Umno division deputy chief Aziz Mat Derus told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
Kuala Muda branch chief Abdul Wahid Abdullah said the party was focused on preparations for elections, stressing that unity among party members was important.
“We don’t use bahasa keras (coarse language), like Datuk Seri (Najib Razak) himself also apologised to the people over any mistakes that we have done, and we hope that a second chance be given to Umno.
“We are already 93 per cent ready, and the important thing is to work hard to ensure victory for Umno. Doesn’t matter who is the candidate, we will work hard,” he said.
The coming 13th general election is expected to be a closely-fought battle between BN and PR when the federal mandate ends by next April.