Malaysia election: Umno swept aside by ‘green tsunami’

Supporters of Perikatan Nasional cheering as results stream in for Malaysia's 15th general election in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 19, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR – The next government is still a work in progress, while Malaysians are trying to wrap their heads around the stunning outcome of the 15th General Election (GE15).

As at press time, Barisan Nasional (BN) was on the way to a defeat more crushing than in 2018.

There are already calls for Zahid Hamidi, who is BN chairman and Umno president, to take responsibility and resign.

The shocker of the night was dark horse Perikatan Nasional giving BN the fight of its life.

The Malay wave that rumbled towards Perikatan has enabled it to wrest Perlis and and roll over the other Malay states.

Some viewed it as the “green tsunami”, a reference to Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which is the dominant partner in Perikatan.

The two coalitions were neck and neck in many seats and a video from Kepala Batas of Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican conceding defeat to Perikatan a little after 10pm said it all, because an Umno stronghold that was once held by a former prime minister had fallen.

Perikatan, with PAS providing a strong Islamic voice, had sucked away Malay votes that would have otherwise gone to Umno, and it included the civil service, Malay professionals and Malay first-time voters.

There is a very powerful subtext to this. It signals that Malays who rejected a Malay party they regarded as tainted had also spurned the multiracial Pakatan Harapan (PH).

They preferred to turn to an alternative that was very much centred around race and religion.

The fact that Perikatan managed to win the prestigious Putrajaya seat was another clear sign that the country’s top civil servants had rejected BN.

They felt that Umno had not learnt from the fall of 2018 and had failed to change according to the times.

The economy had affected ordinary people where it hurt most, but corruption and integrity were important issues among the professional class.

There is still no sign of what kind of government will be formed out of this confusing state of affairs.

There are already calls for Zahid Hamidi, who is Barisan chairman and Umno president, to take responsibility and resign. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

However, PH captain Anwar Ibrahim is nearing his dream to be the next prime minister with the credible win by his coalition.

Will he be able to cobble together a coalition government in the coming hours?

Winning so well was tough, but the harder part lies ahead.

The new Tambun MP had run a great campaign, igniting excitement in Perak and beyond.

He managed to capture the national mood and public imagination as he zipped from east to west and north to south over the last fortnight.

There was criticism about him jetting about in a private helicopter, but it was a necessary mode of transport to reach out as extensively as possible.

It also gave him the air of a man on a mission, who was willing to go the distance to achieve his goal.

Many PH supporters who had written him off rallied behind Pakatan as he stirred interest and, more importantly, revived belief in him.

The Chinese, especially, are still thirsting for a truly Malaysian leader and he seemed to quench their thirst with his multiracial narrative, his energy and his personal charm.

The last general election was shaped by people gravitating towards Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

This election found Malays swaying to Perikatan, a pattern evident in Malay seats all over the country.

The Malay voters had decided to try out a new dish on the political menu.

The atmosphere at the Umno headquarters was not as dazed and shocked as it was in 2018, but none of them thought that lightning would strike twice.

A voice recording from Melaka Umno chief Abdul Rauf Yusoh, at about 1pm, instructing the Umno machinery to get its “white voters” out to vote was the first indication of trouble for BN.

BN had become too complacent after the fantastic wins in Johor and Melaka.

The coalition had called the election confident of being the next government but it seemed out of sorts throughout the campaign.

The campaign lacked oomph and did not seem coordinated. BN failed to show that it was in charge even though Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was the caretaker prime minister.

Mr Ismail Sabri did not travel the country to rally the troops, selecting only certain areas to go to. He did not have a strong narrative, and he was eclipsed by Datuk Seri Anwar’s star power.

Umno’s Mr Nice Guy was somehow not the average Malaysian’s notion of a prime minister.

BN election director and deputy Mohamad Hasan, who did such a great job in the Johor and Melaka elections, could have been more hands on. Instead of moving around to help campaign elsewhere, he kept to Rembau.

But BN’s problem was Zahid, who was like the proverbial sitting duck.

He was the prime target of attacks that highlighted his corruption court case, as well as an intense psy-war that he would be the prime minister if BN wins.

However, he was too powerful in Umno and no one dared to bell the cat.

The most tragic news of the night was Dr Mahathir losing his deposit in Langkawi. It was the ultimate rejection for this once great man who changed the fortunes of this island in the sun.

Turbulent days lie ahead for Malaysia, but the voters have decided. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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