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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Umno purge not the same as Anwar’s 1998 sacking


Political analysts said the recent Umno purge involving major personalities like former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin is not the same as Anwar Ibrahim’s sacking in 1998.

Taking Khairy and Anwar as an example, Nusantara Strategic Research Academy’s Azmi Hassan said the two leaders’ positions in the cabinet and in Umno were vastly different.

“Although Khairy today is said to have big ambitions, but the fundamentals are not there yet for Khairy to pose a challenge, whether to Umno president (Ahmad Zahid Hamidi) or to become prime minister.

“The same goes for Hishammuddin Hussein. So, this scenario is quite different and not as complicated as in 1998,” he told Malaysiakini.

On Sept 2, 1998, Anwar who was deputy prime minister at the time was removed from office on accusations of sodomy, which triggered demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur.

Apart from differing party positions, the think tank Ilham Centre pointed out that Umno’s acceptance among the Malay community was also different during the 15th general election (GE15) compared to 1998.

Nusantara Strategic Research Academy’s Azmi Hassan

“At the time (in 1998), Umno was still a strong party representing the Malays, but post-GE15 with only 26 (parliamentary) seats won, that is its worst ever performance,” said Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar.

Nevertheless, despite the party grassroots being unnerved by the removal of big names like Khairy and former Selangor Umno chief Noh Omar, both analysts believe Umno is capable of handling the situation.

This is because the party has sacked major personalities before, such as Muhyiddin Yassin who was deputy president and deputy prime minister at the time, and former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir, when the party was helmed by Najib Abdul Razak.

To revive the party, Azmi said the coming party election will need to showcase “neutral faces” who will not be seen as too close to Zahid, while not opposing the party president at the same time.

“The best alternatives and ingredients for Umno will come from Umno members who will vote in the (party) election,” he said.

Nevertheless, what remains to be seen are the upcoming state elections where Umno has to prove to Pakatan Harapan that the party is stable and united, Azmi added - expecting Umno to cooperate with Harapan in the polls.

Meanwhile, Hisomuddin said Umno needs to be careful with its revival process despite having the advantage of being a mature party facing internal divisions.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar

He said the party’s internal conflict did not begin with the recent dismissals and suspensions, but since Umno’s disastrous showing at GE15.

“Their maturity is being tested by a large-scale rejection… their Malay support will become a challenge for Umno to rise again, while being forced to take action against leaders who are big names in the party.

“But at the same time, they have to reorganise their remaining strength and personalities to win back the confidence of the Malays,” he noted.

Hisomuddin added that since its poor performance at GE15, Umno’s leadership has failed to adequately explain why the party has embraced its long-time nemesis DAP and Anwar to form the government.

“It is still unresolved at the grassroots level. Moreover, the desire (to join the government) is not there at Umno’s grassroots level, such as in several states like Perak and Pahang.

“The whole country too, actually. We don’t see their desire to form the government, as though there is no euphoria amongst Umno members. It’s not a good sign for Umno and BN,” Hisomuddin said.

He added that Umno’s chances at the state elections will be affected if the explanation does not reach the party grassroots by the time the election is called.

“This will drag down Harapan too. Harapan will be affected as well,” he said. - Mkini

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