Why M’sians cannot afford Umno’s abrupt meltdown

Opinion  |  Wong Chin Huat
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The news that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has frozen the bank accounts of Umno national and its Selangor chapter has excited many Malaysians.

Some would hope for the Registrar of Society (ROS) to further deregister Umno on technical ground as it once did Bersatu.

Understandably, many blame Umno for everything that goes wrong in Malaysia and want nothing but its complete demise.

However, Malaysia cannot afford an abrupt meltdown of Umno. Here are the three unintended consequences that those want to see Umno dead as soon as possible may want to consider.

Consequence 1: PAS will be the main opposition

As long as there are elections, there will be opposition. There are always some voters who would vote against the government, and a winner-takes-all electoral system like Malaysia’s first-past-the-post will drive their votes to the strongest opposition.

In the GE14, Umno and PAS respectively won 22% and 19% of the total valid votes cast in Peninsular Malaysia, and most of their voters are Malays. The first direct consequence of Umno’s abrupt meltdown would be PAS absorbing a substantial part of Umno’s base. If it takes only half of Umno’s support, PAS would have a 30% electoral base in the peninsula to start with.

This would not be enough for PAS to win federal power but PAS can certainly go beyond Kelantan and Terengganu and expand to Perlis, Kedah and Pahang at the next elections.

Will this fortified PAS – perhaps analogous to Muslim NGO Isma functioning as a political party – contest against Pakatan Harapan on issues of good governance and bread-and-butter, or on how to implement hudud punishments across the country?

Political parties are often but vehicles of the social forces they represent. Malay ethno-nationalism represented by Umno – loathed by so many liberals and non-Malays – is unfortunately not imposed by Umno on a Malay constituency otherwise wanting a colour-blind Malaysia but rather what Umno offers to meet the market demand.

Destroying the vehicle before the social realities change will only drive those voters picking a more radical vehicle. If the lavish style of Najib Razak is an issue, then blame it on secularism and have a greater dose of religious politics.

Consequence 2: Umno lawmakers crossing over to Harapan

If Umno is administratively terminated or financially starved to death, of course not everyone would join PAS. In fact, more would jump to Harapan – especially Bersatu and...

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