Saturday, January 22, 2022

An earlier election could trap Umno, say analysts

They caution against using the results of the Melaka polls to predict the outcome of the 15th general election.

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While Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) are fresh from their victory in the Melaka state election, analysts warn that pushing forward the next general election could end up trapping the Malay party.

Yusri Ibrahim of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu said the Melaka election on Nov 20 may have provided an early glimpse of what might come at the 15th general election (GE15) but should not be taken as the same thing.

“The Melaka election cannot be used to anticipate the results of GE15,” he said at a discourse on the state polls in Kuala Lumpur today.

“Any haste in calling a general election could risk trapping Umno.”

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi recently urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for GE15 to be held earlier following BN’s victory in the Melaka polls.

Zahid, who leads a group of Umno leaders known as the court cluster had said that the memorandum of understanding inked between the government and Pakatan Harapan (PH) did not preclude the holding of an early election.

Yusri said the three-way fights and above in Melaka had given BN the edge as Perikatan Nasional (PN) did not have a core of voters in the state.

But he said the same would not be the case in states with different demographics such as Terengganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Kedah and Perlis.

He said if the percentage of voter turnout is even slightly higher than the 65% seen in Melaka, PN might be able to win more seats.

“PN gained momentum at the last minute which, if it had continued, could have allowed it to add to its support in Malay-majority areas,” he said.

The Melaka election had seen three-way fights between BN, PN and PH. BN eventually won 21 of the 28 seats in the legislative assembly, obtaining a two-thirds majority.

Concern has however been expressed over calls for GE15 to be held earlier than July 2022, the timeline proposed by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin when offering to cooperate with the opposition before his resignation in August.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Nov 26 that holding an election at this point in time would be “utterly irresponsible” given the Covid-19 situation.

He said this followed the increase in Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions as well as the emergence of new variants in the country.

Hamidin Abd Hamid, a lecturer at Universiti Malaya, said Umno should not be too comfortable with its victory, citing internal conflict between the court cluster and another group dubbed the ministers’ cluster following the Melaka election.

“In Melaka, there is conflict between factions which will affect Umno elections in the time to come,” he said.

Adding that the court cluster appeared to have dominated after the state election, he said the response of the ministers’ cluster remains to be seen.

Hamidin said while Umno might wish to strike while the iron is still hot, Ismail’s political career lies in the balance in the face of such internal conflict.

“The court cluster wants GE15 to be held before any decisions by the courts which could threaten their positions in the party,” he said.

“They can act in the party’s name but not the name of the government.”

He said if an Umno election is held before GE15, it could benefit Ismail and the ministers’ cluster in the context of party leadership.

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