Umno fielding veterans to avoid losing ‘safe’ seats, say analysts

Mohd Farhan Darwis

Umno has announced it will field 18% of incumbents in its candidate line-up for the state polls. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 24, 2023.

UMNO has named several veterans as candidates for the state elections on August 12 to overcome the risk of losing their traditional and winnable seats, analysts said.

They said the party’s leadership believes these familiar faces stood a better chance than fresh candidates, especially in the event of a straight fight with Perikatan Nasional (PN).

Among the veterans named as candidates include party deputy president Mohamad Hasan, Kedah Umno chairman Mahdzir Khalid, former ministers Reezal Merican Naina Merican and Jalaludin Alias, and two former Terengganu menteris besar, Ahmad Said and Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said it was easier for Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) to re-nominate a known incumbent or leader instead of taking the risk of fielding a fresh face.

“Especially in cases where there could be a straight fight with PN, Umno’s incumbents and veterans would have an advantage.

“With new faces, they would not have sufficient time to ensure that victory is guaranteed,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“As such, Umno does not dare take any risks, even with seats that are 50-50. It is better for the party to have the incumbent contest again,” he added.

Hisommudin said incumbents have an advantage with their ongoing work in the areas.

However, he added that this strategy could also backfire with young and new voters failing to recognise the past effort put in by these elected representatives.

These young and new voters also tend to reject old faces and want something fresher and new, said Hisommudin.

“If you want to take it from a critical point of view, big names are not a guarantee because young people do not know these personalities,” he said.

Umno Deputy President Mohamad Hasan is among the veterans who will defend their constituencies. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, July 24, 2023.

On Friday night, Umno president and BN chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that the coalition had agreed to field 63% first-time candidates and only 18% incumbents.

Another 20% would consists of those who had contested beforex but want to offer themselves again, he said.

In this list, Mohamad, who is also Rembau MP, will be defending his Rantau seat, Mahdzir (Pedu), Reezal Merican (Bertam), Jalaludin (Pertang), Ahmad (Kijal) and Razif (Seberang Takir).

Jalaludin is also Jelebu MP.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Mazlan Ali, meanwhile, said Umno needed these veterans to guide the new candidates.

“I see these figures as ‘evergreen’, so they are not affected by time and age. After all, Umno has named 63% new-face candidates. There must be a combination of old and new faces, that 63% is more than half.

“Umno also needs old faces to guide and ensure the new faces are on the right track.

“They are actually needed to lead their respective parties,” he said.

Six states will see elections taking place on August 12 – Kedah (36 seats), Kelantan (45), Terengganu (32), Penang (40), Selangor (56) and Negri Sembilan (36).

BN, only represented by Umno for these elections, will be working with Pakatan Harapan to take on PN as their main challenger. Other parties such as Muda and PSM have also joined hands to act as a third force.

The main challenge for these parties is to win the support of the Malay voters. – July 24, 2023.

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