Tuesday, September 24, 2013

'Unchallenged Umno Presidency A Nod To Najib’s Leadership, Analysts Say', Malay Mail, 23 September 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — Umno’s improved performance in Election 2013 and the party’s apparent lack of suitable replacements had saved Datuk Seri Najib Razak from a presidential ouster last weekend, several political analysts have observed.
Professor Jayum Jawan from Universiti Putra Malaysia said he could not see anyone else capable of toppling Najib from his perch, although he noted the country’s sixth prime minister may not be as dynamic as former Umno presidents Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or even Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, his own father.
“There is nobody else more capable and eligible than Najib,” Jayum told The Malay Mail Online today.
“The problem is there is nobody who is able to challenge both him and Tan Sri Muhyiddin (Yassin). Literally, they have no competition. That’s good for them. Whether it’s good for Umno, it’s not certain. They are the best, for the moment, to lead Umno,” added the lecturer of politics and government.
Najib and Muhyiddin were returned unopposed to their posts of Umno president and deputy president respectively when nominations for the polls closed on Saturday.
Dr Lim Teck Ghee, director of Centre for Policy Initiatives, said that the uncontested top leadership posts in the Barisan Nasional (BN) lynchpin revealed that the party’s pro-Mahathir faction was not strong enough to mount a challenge, “with Muhyiddin himself unwilling to make a bid for the top position”.
“Najib’s unveiling of the latest Bumiputera socio-economic empowerment plan and his surprisingly strong support of Utusan Malaysia - both seen as pandering to the extremist factions - must have pre-empted and finally discouraged any opposition within Umno to move against him,” he told The Malay Mail Online via email today.
Putrajaya’s new Bumiputera agenda, which Najib announced last weekend, gives the dominant Malay community access to over RM31 billion in aid and contracts.
Lim noted, however, that resistance against Najib may manifest in the contest for the Umno vice-presidency and in the supreme council, where his preferred candidates might lose to “hard-line and ultra-Malay candidates”.
Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, political analyst from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, pointed out that although BN had ceded even more seats to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the 13th general election than in Election 2008, Umno had increased its parliamentary representation from 79 to 88 seats.
“In 1999 GE, Mahathir lost a lot of Umno seats, hence his decision to resign. So whatever clever argument Mahathir would suggest to dethrone Najib, he has a worse record,” Shamsul Amri told The Malay Mail Online.
He added that Najib was not blamed for the ruling coalition’s loss of Chinese support in the May 5 polls that had reduced BN component party MCA’s seat tally to just seven federal seats.
“I think it’s not so much the blame game. More of an appreciation that Najib tried his best to woo the Chinese voters, but he didn’t sing the right song,” said Shamsul Amri.
James Chin, political analyst from Monash University Sunway, said that no one in Umno could match Najib’s popularity.
“Under the new voting, the number of candidates who can fight Najib has actually grown smaller since you need a national profile to fight.
“Only Muhyiddin Yassin was able to do that, but he was unwilling because he was not sure of his numbers,” Chin told The Malay Mail Online via email yesterday.
Some 146,500 delegates will be allowed to directly elect their top leaders in Umno after the party amended its constitution to allow more members to vote, up from the previous 2,500.
BN component party leaders said on Saturday that the unopposed re-election of Najib and Muhyiddin will strengthen the ruling coalition’s and the country’s political leadership.
Sarawak United People’s Party president Tan Sri Peter Chin was quoted by national news agency Bernama yesterday as saying that the continuity of Umno’s leadership will provide stability and boost confidence among both Malaysians and foreigners in the country’s direction.
Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, political scientist at Universiti Sains Malaysia, similarly said that Umno needed to remain united to prevent drawn-out internal conflicts.
“To avoid personalised conflicts, both top positions are important to be retained its status quo in order to put party above any other interest,” he told The Malay Mail Online.

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