Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are neither the present nor the future of Umno. Deep down inside, they know it.
Ironically, they remain influential in their own ways despite court cases hovering over their heads. This has kept their political flame alive.
Perhaps between the two, Umno president Ahmad Zahid would be more defensive than his predecessor and former Prime Minister Najib if someone were to tell him to take a back seat.
Whispers within the corridors of Menara Dato Onn seem to suggest that the Malay-based party is eager to make radical changes with several possibilities lined up in gearing up for a general election soon. The party is bullish of reclaiming lost seats en route to possibly occupying Putrajaya.
This could mean ditching a tradition that is far too familiar to them – that the president of the party will also be the prime minister.
This would also mean the party president and his council playing an equally important role as the prime minister would have to face them regularly and explain major decisions made by the government of the day.
In an ideal world, this would promise further check and balance.
Also, this would ensure the party is aware of major decisions and is able to narrate and justify the decisions to its members and the rakyat at large. The declaration of the emergency in January comes to mind as despite having representatives in the Cabinet, Umno was “pretty much in the dark”.
The current tradition sees the prime minister of the day informing the Yang di-Pertuan Agong about major decisions just before the weekly Cabinet meeting.
Najib, and more importantly Ahmad Zahid, need to be convinced of such a change.
It is not going to be a walk in the park. Some elders may disagree to such an idea as this would mean Umno leaders will not automatically secure Cabinet positions.
In convincing the stakeholders, references will be made to nations like Indonesia and the US.
President Joko Widodo is from PDI Perjuangan – a party headed by Megawati Soekarnoputri. In the US, President Joe Biden is a member of the Democratic Party while Jamie Harrison is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The parties play key roles in governing the country.
Love them or loathe them, Umno still needs Najib and Ahmad Zahid – the former dubbed as a “strategist” while the latter still has a strong grassroots base.
The “kluster mahkamah” and “kluster kalah” Umno members – potshots taken by party leaders against their colleagues with pending court cases and those who lost at the last GE – could still play an important role in the evolution of the party.
Umno is still the largest political party in Malaysia – mainly due to its membership and 60-odd years in power.
In promising stability and integrity, Umno could eventually bounce back and regain power – only if it makes sweeping changes within and give its members a reason to move forward.
That would mean Najib and Ahmad Zahid supporting a “new face” as prime ministerial candidate ahead of the looming general election.