Getting UMNO supporters to vote opposition
The results of the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections show that Dr Mahathir had little or no success converting UMNO supporters into opposition supporters. Why?
There are 2 aspects of Mahathir’s and Muhyiddin’s strategy which seems to me counterproductive and unattractive to UMNO members. They are:
Attacks limited only to 1MDB; silence on everything else
All Muhyiddin’s speeches I have read, talk only about Najib and 1MDB. Mahathir’s scope is wider but neither he nor Muhyiddin ever talk about how Najib’s alleged dishonesty robs the ordinary Malay and makes life difficult for him and his family. They are silent on how removing Najib will benefit the ordinary Malay.
Life is more than just 1MDB. Mahathir’s insistence that Najib is toppled first before discussing what is to replace him, is equivalent to telling a person “Your house is in bad condition. We will tear it down. When you are homeless, only then will we think of how to build you a new one.”
Is Mahathir the destroyer of UMNO?
Mahathir said UMNO has deviated so far from its original objectives that it must be replaced by Bersatu. This means Mahathir has turned from being the protector of UMNO to being the destroyer of UMNO. This flip flop, taken together with his other great flip flop from describing Lim Kit Siang as the arch enemy of the Malays to working with him as a close political ally, must cause great confusion in the average UMNO member and lose Mahathir political support.
Strategy to win over UMNO supporters to vote opposition
For such a strategy to be successful, I believe the following arguments must be made to UMNO members and the Malay community.
UMNO members must be reassured that it is impossible to destroy UMNO as it is an integral part of the history, culture and social life of the Malay community. It is too iconic, too embedded in the loyalty and affection of the Malay community to be destroyed. Mahathir and Muhyiddin should not seek its destruction as those who do so are looked upon as the enemy and will not be listened to.
Those of us who want a two party system also do not want to destroy UMNO. We just want a reformed and honest UMNO to act as a check and balance against Pakatan Harapan if they gain power.
It is possible to get UMNO members and the Malay community to listen to arguments that UMNO has deviated from its original objective of serving the Malays. The solution is reform, not destruction.
Because Najib’s domination of UMNO is so complete, reform cannot be carried out within UMNO. Although for those who have “UMNO in their blood”, it is unthinkable to collaborate with opposition parties, it nevertheless becomes necessary if the space for democratic change within UMNO is denied. Muhyiddin has likened Najib to a cancer destroying UMNO. This cancer can only be removed if Najib’s UMNO loses GE14.
As UMNO has never tasted electoral defeat before, the possibility of this happening will be a huge shock to ordinary UMNO members. They must be reassured that defeat at GE14 would be good for UMNO. Experience in other democratic countries shows that a political party, after years in power, becomes tired, lazy, arrogant and runs out of ideas. Defeat forces the party to search out and correct its own weaknesses and think out new ways of solving the country’s problems. Defeat would reform, renew and re-invigorate UMNO.
They must be reassured that defeat at GE14 will not destroy UMNO. Mahathir should therefore publicly retract his statement in his Open Letter to UMNO branches that once UMNO loses a General Election, “it can never again be re-built.”
They should be told that UMNO/BN does not have a divine right to rule. That political party/coalition which has worked the hardest to gain the confidence, trust and support of the Malaysian people is the one which deserves to rule.
Mahathir and Muhyiddin should state that, if Najib’s UMNO is defeated at GE14, they will dissolve Bersatu and return to UMNO to preserve Malay unity. Muhyiddin and others can return to UMNO as heroes, contest the Presidency and other high office in forthcoming UMNO elections and represent UMNO in the new government.
This means that whatever the outcome of GE14, UMNO will still be represented in government, the only question being whether it is Najib’s UMNO or Muhyiddin’s UMNO. In Part 1, I have argued that a limited time, limited program pact, which I termed Pakatan Sementara untuk Menyelamatkan Malaysia, will enable the ordinary UMNO member to “know exactly what the opposition will do if it gains power at GE14” and “if the new government does not perform up to expectations, he can vote against it in one year’s time.”
This combined with the fact that UMNO will be represented by Muhyiddin and allies in a Pakatan Sementara government, should allow UMNO members and supporters at GE14 to vote freely based on what they think is best for the Malay community and the country and not vote against the opposition out of fear of Chinese domination.
Is Mahathir and Muhyiddin Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat?
Najib has made a great play of the need of UMNO members to be loyal to the leader and loyalty to the leader is important in the Malay psyche. Najib’s appeal for loyalty must be countered. So in this modern version of Sejarah Melayu, is Mahathir and Muhyiddin Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat?
This depends on who is the Sultan. If the Sultan is Najib, President of UMNO, then Hang Tuah would defend Najib against the opposition and Hang Jebat would work with the opposition to defeat Najib because he, according to Muhuiddin, has been unjust. But if ultimate loyalty is due to the organisation UMNO, and not to the President of UMNO, then the Sultan is UMNO, and Najib merely the Bendahara. In this case, both Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat would work with the opposition to defeat Najib, who, as the cancer, is causing damage to UMNO, the Sultan.
I believe Mahathir and Muhyiddin can only retain the affection and support of the ordinary UMNO member and the Malay community if they portray themselves as the saviours or reformers of UMNO and not as its destroyers.
If Mahathir and Muhyiddin continue merely to criticize Najib over 1MDB without laying out their vision and plan to return UMNO to its original mission of serving the Malay community and the nation, then their actions will be seen as driven by personal interests. They will lose the support of UMNO members and supporters. If Mahathir and Muhyiddin are unable to deliver the votes of UMNO members and supporters to the opposition, they are of little value to the opposition.
For Part 1, Uniting the opposition, click here.
Part 3, Opposing hudud as a critical friend and not as an enemy, is being consulted on and will be published soon.