Speeches in support of the narrative by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the party’s recent general assembly that it has been ill-treated by others in the ruling coalition came as no surprise, says prominent political scientist Chandra Muzaffar.
Chandra said this was because Umno had been afflicted with a neo-feudal psychology since the time of the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, which was displayed again at the recent general assembly.
“When the president makes a proposal to the grassroots, they will go along,” Chandra told MalaysiaNow.
“Furthermore, the narrative brought by the top leaders is something that appeals to very deep Umno Malays’ sentiments.”
But he said such a situation is not unique to Umno, adding that Singapore’s PAP is another party in which members ultimately toe their leaders’ line.
Chandra was commenting on the speeches at the recent Umno general assembly, which saw delegates and grassroots leaders by and large agreeing with Zahid’s proposal to cut ties with Bersatu and to make Umno dominant again.
Zahid as well as party deputy president Mohamad Hasan told delegates that Umno must be returned as the dominant partner, as was the case when it ruled for over six decades.
Chandra said the official outcome of the general assembly, where the motion to cut ties with Bersatu was passed, was expected.
He said Umno has a history of vote-buying, where cash is exchanged for support for division heads.
“To put it gently, it is about Umno going back to money politics,” he added.
But he said Zahid’s claim that the Umno grassroots were overwhelmingly in favour of their party cutting ties with a ruling party such as Bersatu was hard to believe.
“I don’t think a lot of them want to break with a government party. They know what the perks and benefits are, having been in power for so long.”
He said delegates who toed the line could have done so “for some other reason”.
He said those who follow Zahid’s line that Umno could make a comeback after its huge loss in the 2018 general election could have miscalculated.
“They may think they have the support of divisions but let’s not forget, Umno lost a number of Malay majority constituencies in the last election.
“And that was before all the revelations about corruption being played out in the courts,” Chandra added.
“How could one ever think that Umno will perform the dominant role again?”
Veteran Umno leader Shahrir Samad previously told MalaysiaNow that steps were taken to ensure that no speaker behind the Umno general assembly rostrum levelled criticism against party leaders.
He said a move to allow all state chiefs to speak at the assembly was abandoned at the eleventh hour, on the back of fears that many are unhappy with Zahid.
Ketereh Umno chief Annuar Musa meanwhile said the list of speakers and the contents of their speeches had been vetted by the Supreme Council.
Zahid and former prime minister Najib Razak together face more than 80 charges of corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust.
The duo have been at the forefront of criticism against Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, and have been pushing for Umno to find other allies including PKR.
Last October, the two leaders sent a letter to the palace expressing support for PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to topple Muhyiddin.