MANAMA (Bahrain), 19 Jan 2009: Umno has lost the “wow” factor that would attract people to the party, and needs to institute radical change to win back support.
In a frank analysis of what ails Umno in the wake of the Kuala Terengganu by-election, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the there was a need to bring back the “wow” factor tp make people sit up and take notice of something new and interesting that the party was conveying.
“Currently, in Umno, what’s the wow factor? There is no wow factor. We have lost the wow factor that would make people say ‘I really want to listen to what the leaders are saying’,” Muhyiddin said.
Muhyiddin was asked to comment on the polls on 17 Jan, where Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut of PAS beat the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh by 2,631 votes.
The international trade and industry minister, who was speaking on the sidelines of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s official visit to Bahrain, stressed on the necessity for Umno and the BN to be reinvented to fulfil the people’s aspirations without sacrificing Umno’s principles and struggle.
“Party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his designated successor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, would need to institute a radical change; a political surgery, if you will,” he said.
Muhyiddin said it would be good to conduct a post-mortem to ascertain weaknesses that contributed to the electoral defeat in Kuala Terengganu, but what was more important was to dig deeper into the minds of voters.
“There are bound to be weaknesses in any by-election despite the party machinery having gone full throttle. But maybe this is a signal that must be taken seriously.
“Does it mean that the people still find it hard to accept the BN after we lost in the last general election because they don’t feel that there has been any change or reform as promised?” he said.
Muhyiddin said for this reason, the BN and Umno should not take too long to implement the reforms that they have promised. The important thing would be for Umno and the BN to tackle certain perceptions in the voters’ minds.
“Mention Umno or the BN, and that’s the perception the people have. This is twisted by the opposition parties,” Muhyiddin said.
“We also cannot discount the possibility that our citizens now have a better grasp of things, are more sensitive, and are able to make assessments from all angles.
“Maybe we are seen as not being ready to accommodate what they think is good.”
He added that Umno and the BN should be willing to act more radically in implementing the necessary changes.
Muhyiddin stressed that certain statements had to be made so that the people would understand the reforms that Umno and the BN intend to bring.
“Otherwise, they will regard our statements as rhetoric. I’m more inclined to analyse the by-election results from a more holistic perspective, although we can identify the cause of the defeat the normal way, like ineffective election machinery despite the hard work, the choice of candidate, and the issues raised by the opposition,” he said.
Muhyiddin said he had received views from various parties who had expressed concern that BN defeat in by-elections had become a new trend because the people still had not seen any reform by the BN and Umno.
“Let us do some serious soul-searching. Maybe the people will be angry at me for saying this. Some leaders will say that it’s not the trend, but we don’t know,” he said.
Muhyiddin added that the government parties must really understand what the people want, because it is the people who determine the result of an election.
“We have to be truthful to ourselves. We should not be complacent, saying that we are okay. This is our problem.
“The word is ‘change quickly’. In three or four years there’ll be more by-elections, the state elections.”
Besides Umno, the BN’s other component parties should also take stock of the situation as they, too, were having problems of their own, he said. – Bernama