4:14pm 23/08/2023
Umno-Baru’s toxic leadership
By:Mariam Mokhtar

In the past week, several Umno-Baru leaders proved to everyone why Umno-Baru is a failed party.

When the results from the six state elections trickled in, no one was surprised that Umno-Baru had performed badly.

So, its leaders did what they had always done best. They blamed other people for the poor showing instead of manning up and taking responsibility for their actions.

Good leaders take the blame, terrible leaders will always find someone else to blame.

In the first instance, the elephant in the room was ignored. Zahid Hamidi should have stepped down, as his leadership failed to impress the Umno-Baru grassroots.

The party is a burden on its partners, but Anwar Ibrahim faced a huge dilemma after GE15.

Harapan entered into a marriage of convenience with Umno-Baru, and was forced to accept corrupt and underperforming Umno-Baru politicians into the fold in order to form the Unity Government.

This is Malaysia where selfish reasons are the main motivation.

Fearful of the “green wave”, the majority of non-Malays and many “progressive Malays” reluctantly closed both eyes to “accept” Zahid Hamidi into the coalition.

They were more fearful of Mahiaddin Yassin of Bersatu, or the conservative Hadi Awang, the leader of PAS, as prime minister, and wrongly or rightly, they sacrificed their principles.

When faced with a tricky situation, we convince ourselves that “it is better to accept the lesser of the two evils”.

When will we learn our lessons and reject the incompetent, the corrupt and the least able? Perhaps, Zahid is part of our learning curve.

A day after Umno-Baru’s humiliating performance in the state elections, Umno-Baru Supreme Council member Puad Zarkashi said the party needed a new narrative that would resonate with the voters.

He said that Malay support for Umno-Baru was declining. For future elections, he advised the party to stop fielding candidates who lost in the state polls, and not to nominate politicians who are 45 years and older.

Malaysians have always rejected the old guard, but it took a defeated Umno-Baru to make its leaders realise this.

We are fed up with the same old faces who have held onto their seats for decades. Many are arrogant and act as if they know best.

This is not a just a phenomenon in Umno-Baru as it is also common in PKR. Where is the succession plan for PKR?

Older politicians refuse to listen to the feedback of younger people. They place importance in hierarchy, and appear to be more interested in clinging onto their positions instead of nurturing younger, more energetic and creative people with potential.

In other words, older politicians are selfish, have poor leadership qualities, are incompetent and complacent, have huge egos, and exhibit “ketuanan” tendencies. They are not interested in encouraging new talent.

Umno-Baru leaders know that the Malays would thrive and flourish without the party. The same applies if we have no race- or religion-based parties in Malaysia.

So, when will Umno-Baru move with the times?

If Umno is to survive, its current leadership must go.

For decades, the party hierarchy has claimed that they are the only ones who can unite the Malays, protect them and defend Islam.

Today, the Malays are more disunited than ever and Umno-Baru is imploding. Losing Malay support has been Umno-Baru’s own doing.

Other supreme council members also took part in the blame game.

Nur Jazlan Mohamed blamed Umno-Baru’s performance on Malay youths’ lack of political awareness.

He said they had a wrong view of Umno-Baru and  accused them of lacking basic political knowledge.

His ludicrous remark that “Malay youths just want KFC after voting” shows how he does not consider himself or his party and the leadership responsible for the actions of young Malay voters.

In previous general elections, Bersih received many complaints of wads of cash and freebies being offered to tempt people to vote for Umno-Baru. This is a consequence of encouraging people to accept bribes.

Ever since its inception in 1946, Umno (and later Umno-Baru) is the country’s dominant Malay party which has helped shape Malaysian politics.

Umno had 66 years since Merdeka to mould Malay youths and make them into thinking and responsible adults. Instead, affirmative action policies, Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy), and discrimination of non-Malays and non-Muslims were actively encouraged.

Umno-Baru had billions of ringgits at their disposal. Each major town had as one of its landmarks a massive multi-storey building housing the Umno-Baru headquarters.

Umno-Baru’s AGM is a multi-million ringgit event when celebrities and political elites would arrive in their imported luxury cars. Their wives were bedecked in gems and flaunted their Hermes Birkin handbags. The politicians flashed their luxury watches and wore designer shoes and clothes.

Now that Umno-Baru is at the losing end, when many Malaysians have lost trust, lost faith and have little confidence in the party, its leaders continue to live in denial.

They refuse to accept that they are responsible for Umno-Baru’s failure and the possibility of Umno-Baru becoming extinct.

For decades, the leadership glorified power and was not keen to promote the rakyat’s interests.

They dumbed down education. They divided the nation. They punished those who criticised their leadership.

If Umno-Baru is to survive, its current leadership must go.

In the end, the most dangerous threat to the party and the Malaysian government is not an invading army, a contagious disease, or a nuclear threat. It is the thinking Malay.


  1. New Straits Times: Puad: Umno advised against fielding losers, older candidates in future polls
  2. Malay Mail: ‘They just want KFC after voting’: Nur Jazlan laments Malay youths’ lack of political awareness, says affected Umno’s chances
  3. Malaysiakini: Azalina defends Zahid, says Umno must change

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)


Mariam Mokhtar
state elections


6 d ago
1 w ago
3 w ago
3 w ago
4 w ago
4 w ago

Read More