After Umno assembly, Najib on ‘solid ground’ for GE14

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — With the key rebels out of Umno, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has succeeded in cementing his leadership within the party that forms the backbone of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, political analysts said after its general assembly ended yesterday.

While they also noted that the road ahead is still littered with challenges, the prime minister has shown he has the majority support and is in full command of the ship in the run-up to the 14th general elections, due by 2018.

“This time around, clearly the party is more solid. The party has asserted solidarity for the president. Despite so many challenges they are facing now, outside the party and [from] ex-party leaders, it’s very clear that Najib has full command in Umno,” Professor Datuk Wira Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak told Malay Mail Online.

The head of the political, security and international affairs cluster from the National Council of Professors said that the recently-concluded assembly has only shown Najib is in full control of Umno, after an unsettling assembly in 2015.

In the last assembly, the presence of then deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who were already dropped from the federal Cabinet, caused unease during the meet.

But since both have gone on to form their own respective parties and joined hands with former political foes especially the DAP, they have alienated their own long-time supporters from within Umno.

Oh Ei Sun from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University said that the 14th general election is a “sure win” for Umno and also stated that the position of Najib at the helm of the party remains firm.

“Umno is usually fully behind whoever is in control of the disbursement of resources unless that leader no longer has the will to rule, such as with [Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi],” he said.

He added that the Opposition needs to sort out seat allocations between themselves to mount a meaningful challenge but such move remains “nowhere in sight”.

But Oh also felt that Umno was not taking its political future lightly, judging from their treatment of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had led their party for 22 years.

ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute deputy director Ooi Kee Beng said that Umno is “gathering its troops” as it finds Dr Mahathir and his new Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), formed with Muhyiddin, a “potent challenge”.

“Having felt that Dr Mahathir’s initiative is a potent challenge, Umno is gathering its troops within BN, appeasing East Malaysian BN members where it can, securing PAS as far as it can, and going into proper campaign mode by focusing on an early election,” Ooi said.

“This way, it hopes to force its doubting allies into line and limit PPBM’s chances by not giving it too much time to undermine weaker Umno factions,” he added.

He said that the current situation might lead to a “a period of worse politicking” and overshadow the urgent need for proper policy making.

The five-day assembly concluded yesterday with Dr Mahathir and social democrat Opposition party DAP being the main targets of criticism from the Umno leaders.

Dr Mahathir was labelled a traitor to the race, country and party by Najib, who had also warned of existential threat to Bumiputera institutions should DAP come into power.

At the same time, Umno strengthened their ties with PAS, with most delegates welcoming a working relationship with the party.

Putrajaya recently helped PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill to increase Shariah punishment caps to be discussed in Parliament and is also adopting the Bill as its own.

Najib himself had praised PAS for practising mature politics during his opening speech to the delegates.

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