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Umno struggles to adapt to life as the opposition

FILE PHOTO: SUN DAILY

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Seeking back-door opportunities to get back into power would cast Umno as a party that is terribly impatient and bereft of fresh ideas, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

An opposition party worth its salt in a thriving democracy is a political entity that not only serves as a useful mechanism of checks and balances but also aims to assume power to rule the country when opportunity prevails, particularly at the polls.

That is why in a democracy, especially one that has a two-party system, a credible opposition is generally perceived to be a government-in-waiting. In other words, a reliable opposition provides a political choice for the electorate.

Umno’s recent friendly overtures towards Islamist party Pas and the reported meetings with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, however, smack of a defeated and downtrodden Umno that is incapable of reforming itself and, worse, in an indecent haste to taste power again at the federal level.

To be sure, Umno (and BN) is barely six months old as an opposition party, and it has already displayed a disposition of a political coalition that can hardly stand the heat of political wilderness for even a brief spell. Despite the public pronouncement of having committees that serve as a shadow cabinet, Umno’s behaviour leaves much to be desired.

Malaysians deserve a credible and trustworthy opposition to make democracy work effectively in the country. At the very least, Umno and its partners should monitor the government of the day to see to it that it keeps its electoral promises and runs the country in an effective, just, transparent and democratic manner.

As an opposition party, Umno should insist on institutional reform, such as judicial independence, separation of powers and press freedom, which Pakatan Harapan (PH) has promised to execute. Such reforms would at the end of the day ensure a level playing field for all concerned.

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Given its baggage, Umno needs honest introspection and hard work as an opposition of integrity for this would help it to burnish its credentials again in the long run. There shouldn’t be a shortcut to power.

To be credible again as a political entity, Umno must impress upon its members and the public about the direction it plans to take and how different it can be from the present government in its policies and socio-economic programmes. It has to be a political force to be reckoned with. This may be one way to prevent or discourage resignations or party-hopping by certain Umno leaders and members.

Resorting to its old playbook of race and religion is not an intelligent way for Umno to be seen as credible and trustworthy by Malaysians across the board, especially if it wants to strive to regain the confidence of people beyond a segment of the Malay-Muslim communities.

In fact, it is a dangerous game to play as our recent past has shown. Divisive politics is antithetical to a multi-ethnic and multicultural polity.

Additionally, to seek back-door opportunities into power would cast Umno not only as a party that is terribly impatient, but also one that is bereft of fresh ideas that would otherwise help it to rise from the ashes.

To be out of the government entails a long struggle that requires tenacity and dynamism of an opposition party. It should become known for its perseverance, hard work and alternative and constructive ideas for the common good.

Umno must move on and rebrand itself as a refreshing Umno Baru, which is after all its real name because the old Umno was outlawed.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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