KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 — Umno’s patience and confidence with the current power-sharing agreement with its partners in Barisan Nasional is wearing thin, judging by sentiments expressed during a closed-door retreat in Janda Baik.
During this rare three-day gathering of Umno divisions, which ended yesterday, a common refrain heard was that Umno should be less generous in giving up Malay-majority seats to representatives of MCA, MIC, Gerakan and other component parties.
The general view among division chiefs was that the component parties were much weaker than Umno and would not be able to swing votes from the non-Malays or the Malays.
In contrast, a strong Umno was better placed to win in Malay-majority seats.
The Malaysian Insider understands that party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and senior party officials who attended the retreat — aimed at boosting the morale of grassroots leaders — were non-committal on the request for Umno to be less charitable in seat allocation with BN component parties.
If they do agree, it would represent a major departure from the power-sharing agreement that has been the hallmark of the BN coalition, and could be the death knell of MCA, MIC, PPP and Gerakan — political parties which have been allowed to field candidates in Malay-majority seats across Peninsular Malaysia.
Several Umno officials who attended the retreat told The Malaysian Insider that the most important consideration should be to field a candidate who can enhance the possibility of victory at the next general election.
“If a seat has 55 or 60 per cent Malay voters, it makes sense to field an Umno candidate. In the last election, we gave seats in Perak and Selangor to other parties and they were not able to deliver.
"These parties still have internal issues and will not be able to deliver the votes from the non-Malays. So it will be better if an Umno candidate is fielded to try and get the maximum possible support from Malay voters,” said an official, who requested anonymity due to the retreat being a closed-door affair.
During the retreat, officials were also in agreement that Umno’s/BN’s fortunes rested on the ruling party strengthening its standing among Malay voters — a backhanded acknowledgment that it was not pinning much hopes on getting support from non-Malays at the next general election.
This sentiment is consistent with the growing right-wing tendencies that party officials have exhibited in recent months.
There was little substantive discussion on how the party can reach out to Chinese and Indians who Umno officials have alienated in recent months.
Still, the mood during the retreat was one of optimism with Kelantan Umno declaring that it would be able to snare the state from PAS at the next polls. PAS has been helming the state since 1990 but Umno officials from Kelantan believe that the momentum is swinging their way.
Also confident was Perak’s Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir. Beneficiary of a power grab, he was certain that Umno/BN would be able to hold on to the state.
Less hopeful about their future prospects were Umno representatives from Penang and Selangor.