PETALING JAYA: Umno needs to look towards the future if it wants to remain relevant to voters, said political analysts who were of the view that the party needs to inject new and younger leaders who can inspire the people and bring about change.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Prof Azmi Hassan said the party needs to change to keep up with the times, adding that there were a lot of old leaders at the branch and division level, making it hard for younger leaders to take over.
He also said the present Umno seems to be out of step with the voters, while pointing out that a lot of countries today were being led by young leaders and Umno needs to understand and appreciate the trend.
“It is difficult to say how many would be able to make the change, as it is a hierarchy-based party. However, it is good that Umno deputy president (Datuk Seri) Mohamad Hassan had voiced his views on the need for the party to be in tandem with the changing times.”
Azmi said many Umno warlords and veteran leaders may not be happy with this, but they have to realise changes have to be made for the party’s survival.
He added that the views offered by Mohamad, who is better known as Tok Mat, would carry weight as he holds the second most powerful position in the party and is a different kind of leader, although he is a veteran politician.
“Umno needs leaders like Tok Mat because people like him look at things differently. He is forward-thinking, and the party needs leaders who are imaginative and who know what voters want.”
He said the ideas of veteran leaders may have become stale, therefore younger leaders were needed to rejuvenate and fire the imagination of party members, adding that with new ideas, Umno might be able to attract more voters.
Tok Mat had said that many viewed Umno as being “far removed from the imagination of post-modern Malaysians”.
“Whether we like it or not, Umno is seen to be ageing and in its twilight and that it is no longer seen as compatible with the times,” he said at the party’s 76th anniversary.
National Council of Professors senior council fellow Prof Jeniri Amir said Umno is trying to change to keep in tandem with the evolving political landscape.
He said Umno members and leaders have seen what could happen to the party, as they were in the Opposition for 22 months after the last general election.
Jeniri said for Umno to transform, veteran leaders need to make way for younger ones, adding that the party cannot remain stuck in its old ways of “doing business”.
“The party must move with the aspirations of modern Malaysians in terms of outlook, ideology, policies and the economy. It needs to find a way to rebrand and rejuvenate itself to attract voters, not only the Undi18 group but also first-time voters created by automatic registration.”
He said party warlords need to realise that the longer they refuse to allow changes, the more likely the party may end up becoming obscure, adding that Umno needed new leaders who are visionaries.
Jeniri also said the party needed the creme de la creme of leaders to take the party forward, and that they must not only be forward-thinking but also have integrity.
“The new leaders need to understand the mindset of the people to make changes happen. Total engagement is needed. Policies must resonate with all voters and not just the Malays,” he said, adding that Umno needs leaders who understand the aspiration of the people, including Sarawakians and Sabahans.