PETALING JAYA,July 7: A political analyst sees the result of the Chini by-election as confirming the strength of former prime minister Najib Razak’s political presence as well as the political acumen of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the two were the real power in Barisan Nasional (BN).
He said it was clear that Najib had the support of the grassroots, noting that played a significant role not only in Chini but also in other by-elections BN has won since the last general election.
“There is no doubt that in by-elections during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) era, Najib was actively campaigning and pulling in the crowds.
“This was also very apparent in Chini, when PH is no longer in power. Najib has a strong political presence, not only in Pekan or Pahang, but at the national level.”
Of Zahid, he said he had shown that he could decide on BN’s direction and negotiate effectively with other parties, including PPBM and Perikatan Nasional.
“It must be noted that Zahid’s move to bring Umno together with PAS under the Muafakat Nasional pact has proven to be one of the key reasons behind BN’s revival.”
BN’s victory in Chini, he said, illustrated the strength of Muafakat Nasional, especially among rural Malay voters.
BN’s Mohd Sharim Md Zain won last Saturday’s by-election with a 12,650-vote majority against independents Tengku Zainul Hisham Tengku Hussin and Mohd Shukri Mohd Ramli, who obtained 1,222 and 137 votes respectively.
Najib, the Pekan MP, declared victory for BN about half an hour before the official result was announced.
But Azmi also said it was still unclear how Umno would approach the next general election as Zahid has kept his cards close to his chest and the current political scenario is “very fluid”.
“I think the grassroots are more inclined towards Muafakat Nasional than to Perikatan Nasional, but Muafakat Nasional cannot rely on Malay support alone. This is where Umno leaders differ on the strategy moving forward.”
With no sign that Najib is gunning for the president’s post, Azmi noted that Zahid is in the driving seat for both Umno and BN.
“But in Umno, the Supreme Council is also influential in deciding Umno’s direction, and it usually follows the grassroots. So Zahid will have to tread carefully in charting Umno and BN’s next moves.”
Another analyst, Mohd Izani Mohd Zain of Universiti Putra Malaysia, said the impact of the Najib factor could not be denied.
But he said this did not mean that Najib – “or Zahid for that matter” – should be leading the party or become Umno’s candidate for PM.
“The party needs to get out of Najib’s and Zahid’s shadows and put forward a new leader who is seen as an acceptable alternative to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin,” he said.
Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia said the result of the Chini by-election was a win not only for BN but also for Muafakat Nasional and Najib.
“The voters saw Najib in BN and Muafakat Nasional and this translated into votes,” he added.
He said Najib played a pertinent role with his “Bossku” branding and social media posts.