NEWS ANALYSIS BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
October 16, 2013
Malaysians should disabuse themselves of any notion that the Umno elections are a battle between reformers and conservatives or the enlightened and blinkered, as the victors of last weekend’s Umno Youth and Wanita polls would like to see it.
It is really a battle between incumbents and challengers and nothing separates them in terms of ideology. It is me first, Umno, Malays and then the national interest.
Both Khairy Jamaluddin and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil won because they had the power of incumbency, and were supported by a push from the top which wanted to keep the status quo.
And their challengers were minnows.
Everything also points to the incumbents being returned as vice-presidents this weekend, no matter the strong challenge from the popular Tan Sri Isa Samad, Datuk Seri Ali Rustam and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir.
Interestingly, the new enlarged electoral system tips the scale for the incumbents – Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
Why? The traditional power brokers, the division chiefs, have become even more powerful now because it is impossible for challengers to reach out to all the 146,000 voting delegates.
They can only reach out to the expanded electoral college through the division chiefs, who hold sway in their respective fiefdoms.
But the fact remains that most Umno division chiefs are motivated by personal gain, contracts, projects or just plain cold cash. They are also much closer to their peers in power than to the challengers.
In most cases, it is the incumbent with a position in government and a large war chest who is able to sway the division chief, who in turn influences the delegates in his division.
Also, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak already returned as president and with him giving clear signals that he wants incumbents to win, not many division chiefs are willing to incur his wrath.
They might talk up the need for transformation that Najib has promoted but the reality is Umno is a feudal party and the leader decides the top party line-up in what is seen as an old boys’ network.
In the end, the challengers are just trying to break into the old boys’ network and move on up, too, rather than promote any conservative or parochial agenda.
It is about power, not a certain ideology or principles for the party. Whoever wins, the party will remain the same. – October 16, 2013.