PETALING JAYA: An Umno led by the trio of Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin is the best way to ensure the party’s political survival moving forward.
Unlike current president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the three are seen as moderate leaders and a voice of reason not just for many in Umno, but for the moderates in PAS as well, according to Universiti Malaysia Sarawak political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Jeniri Amir.
“It’s important that they be seen together on Umno’s perch. They have a good track record being regarded as moderate Malays, and this is very relevant in the context of the future political landscape,” he told theSun yesterday.
“To be relevant and acceptable to various racial groups, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, you need people like them,” he said.
Jeniri pointed out that by its affiliation with PAS, Umno is alienating non-Muslims and non-Malays. “It is vital for Mohamad, Hishammuddin and Khairy to come up with an appropriate narrative to win the hearts of all Malaysians,” he said.
He suggested that Mohamad should vie for the Umno presidency in the next party elections, with Hishammuddin and Khairy becoming his deputies.
Jeniri was commenting on a blog post by Datuk A. Kadir Jasin that Hishammuddin and Khairy could be “the answer to Umno’s conundrum” thanks to their moderate views.
Kadir, who is media adviser to the prime minister, said with Ahmad Zahid embroiled in legal battles over alleged corruption, Hishammuddin had emerged as the de facto leader.
“Members take his word more seriously than they do the president’s or even former premier Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak’s” he said.
He said bringing Umno back to its original moderate stance was key to its survival. “In its current form, it is in danger of being overwhelmed by its ummah collaborator, PAS,” he added.
Kadir said not everyone is comfortable with the party’s reconciliation with PAS.
“They know that PAS will sooner or later take over the household,” he said.
On the other hand, independent political analyst Khoo Kay Peng believes it is a different story on the ground.
He believes many in Umno still prefer the current leadership and are happy with the cooperation with PAS.
“Many grassroots members are okay with their leaders playing the race card, and putting great value in the partnership with PAS,” he added.
Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said while Mohamad could prove to be a popular figure within Umno, the same could not be said about Khairy and Hishammuddin.
“Khairy is only popular on social media, but not so among the Umno grassroots, as many see him as being too liberal.
“They also think that Hishammuddin has not been truly tested as a party leader.”
The Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections researcher said that with many Umno members still riding on the race card, a more likely leadership trio would consist of Mohamad, and Umno vice-presidents Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
“Ismail and Khaled are particularly popular in their respective states of Pahang and Johor, and are among the leaders with the most support because they champion the Malay agenda,” he said.