UMNO has a high chance of winning the Sg Kandis by-election under its own logo if it runs against Pakatan Harapan (PH) in a straight fight, an analyst said.
Geopolitical expert Azmi Hassan said the results of the 14th general election (GE14) showed that the Malay party still resonated with a lot of Malays, who make up the majority of voters in the Selangor state constituency.
“By looking at the last election results, Malays are still with Umno and PAS. The decision to go with the Umno logo is a good strategy since the composition is made up of 70 per cent Malays.
“But the problem is it must be either Umno or PAS. It cannot be the both of them. It will do them no good as what happened in the last GE, which eventually favoured Pakatan Harapan,” he told Malay Mail.
He said the strategy of using the Umno logo will not work in a three-cornered fight with Islamist party PAS as it will divide Malay voters.
GE14 saw a four-cornered fight between PKR, Umno, PAS and Parti Rakyat Malaysia, with PKR winning the seat with 23,998 votes.
Umno came in second with 11,518 votes, while PAS trailed behind with 7,573 votes.
The seat is now vacant following the death of its assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei from lymphatic cancer on July 2.
Azmi said the Sg Kandis by-election will be a good litmus test for Umno to find out if they are capable of running solo and if the people have faith in Umno’s new leadership.
“In this by-election, it does not make sense to use the Barisan Nasional (BN) symbol because Umno needs to try new things. The past polls showed that the contribution of MIC and MCA was negligible in helping BN itself. BN is as good as gone.
“The Sg Kandis by-election results will be the determining factor. If the outcome is positive, perhaps it is a good time for Umno to break away from the coalition itself,” he said.
He added that Umno will likely play up issues of Bumiputera privilege seen to be slowing eroding under the PH administration.
“Now Malays are kind of worried and they can feel that their special privilege has eroded slowly. So definitely one issue that they can likely play up to win votes at Sg Kandis is that,” he said.
Universiti Sains Malaysia analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian, however, felt otherwise.
He said it would be best for Umno to sit out the Sg Kandis by-election and focus on healing the party from within after its monumental loss in GE14.
“Better for them to sit out this by-election like they did with the 2014 Bukit Gelugor and 2015 Chempaka by-elections after the deaths of Karpal Singh and Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat respectively.
“It is only a month-plus after GE14 so people still remember the results. The new Umno team has also been just formed under new leadership so they should try to regenerate within the party first.
“Even better, focus on their roles as first-time Opposition at the next parliamentary sitting, which is happening so soon,” he said.
Sivamurugan commented that while the decision to use a party’s own banner in a by-election is not foreign to local political scene, it is a new concept for BN and it may create a rift among other component parties.
“Running solo may be new for BN but not for Malaysia, as we have seen PH do it before. For Umno, however, it would be wise to reach a consensus from other BN supreme council members or party leaders first before making such a decision,” he said.
On Wednesday, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan said it was crucial for the party to test the waters as an Opposition party by contesting under its own logo in the by-election.
MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam responded by saying Umno should be ready to try and win over non-Malay voters in Sg Kandis on its own.
Retired political science professor Aruna Gopinath, on the other hand, said every party has a fair chance in Sg Kandis, regardless if it is going to be a straight or multi-cornered fight as long as they field the “perfect” candidate.
“Voters in areas that are more rural typically care more about localised problems rather than the whole national political scenario. I would say victory depends on the candidate.
“If the voters feel like Candidate A, for instance, can do a good job and help them solve their day-to-day problems, they will then vote for him or her,” she said.
She said Umno’s decision to contest independently from BN shows that the party is now confident that they have a better chance at winning the public’s confidence if they are no longer affiliated with the coalition.
“That is what this whole thing is telling me. If it is true, it would mean that BN has completely failed.
“Individual parties should then think whether they would still want to remain as a consolidated group or break away completely,” she said.
The Sungai Kandis by-election will be held on August 4 and nomination day is July 21.