THE closing of Umno’s 71st annual general assembly on Saturday has not only geared up party members for the 14th general election (GE14), but also keeps the nation on tenterhooks as everyone awaits Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s big announcement.
With GE14 being the crux of many debates and speeches, the five-day assembly was seen as the final opening for Najib, who is also the Umno president, to fire up the spirits of party members nationwide to secure a thumping victory in the “mother of all elections”.
However, under the shouts and fist-pumping of party members over the week, there was also a sense of uncertainty whether Umno – and Barisan Nasional as a whole – will be able to secure the much sought two-thirds majority in the legislature post GE14.
Najib provided a clear-cut message to the Malay Muslims at the assembly, that they will be displaced and degraded if the ruling coalition were to lose.
While such remarks may terrify the rural and suburban Malays, it does not hold much water in wooing the support of voters from other races, mainly the Chinese.
It was largely the sway of the Chinese votes that contributed to BN’s worst performance in its general election history, despite Umno itself managing to increase its number of seats in GE13.
In his winding-up speech, Najib expressed his confidence of winning big in GE14, stating that “the wind is behind us”.
However, when asked by media in a post-assembly press conference whether he was confident of winning the two-thirds majority, Najib replied that the momentum was on BN’s side, while taking a jibe at the inconsistency of the Opposition.
Even with the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan in disarray, as described by Najib, the ruling alliance should question whether the non-Malay votes will return to the BN component parties, MCA and MIC in particular, in the next polls.
For the record, the opposition parties in GE12 managed to deny BN a two-thirds majority for the first time without having to work under a formal coalition.
Another deciding factor that could risk BN’s supermajority target is the multi-cornered fights in the Malay-majority seats, prompted by the departure of PAS from the opposition coalition.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in his speech at the assembly said multi-cornered fights will not benefit the party in some constituencies.
A recent remark by Umno information chief Tan Sri Annuar Musa has quashed talk that the two parties might be holding hands in facing GE14.
It is worthwhile to note that for BN, the inability to win a supermajority in the next general election is just as good as a loss, given all the clenching of fists and chest thumping at the Umno assembly.
All of the works the ruling coalition has been doing post-GE13 has been centred on returning the supermajority in the Dewan Rakyat to the government.
Thus, the main question that should be asked leading up to GE14 is not whether BN can retain Putrajaya, but whether the coalition can actually regain the two-thirds majority which it has been denied twice.