As Najib’s Prime Minister popularity rating among Malay voters have fallen below 30%, the three million UMNO members must decide whether UMNO’s survival in the next general election will lie in having a new UMNO head and Prime Minister

It is reported today that at least 154 out of 191 UMNO division chiefs want the party’s supreme council to take against errant party leaders, referring to former Deputy Prime Minister and still Deputy UMNO President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, former Rural and Regional Development Minister and UMNO Vice President, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, and even former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir and former Cabinet Minister and former UMNO Secretary-General Tan Sri Sanusi Junid.

This is the result of an internal poll in UMNO conducted among 170 UMNO division leaders in an exclusive WhatsApp programme.

However, the result may be different if a poll is conducted among the three million UMNO members as it is becoming quite clear that for the first time since Merdeka, UMNO has never been so fragmented and fractured between the 300 UMNO chieftains versus the three million UMNO members.

The 300 UMNO chieftains are primarily Umno Supreme Council members and Umno division chiefs who are mostly in the pockets of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak the majority of whom will toe the Najib line, as compared to the three million Umno members most of whom must be very embarrassed by the two Najib mega-scandals of the RM50 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion “donation”, and the lack of political will to resolve these two scandals until they mushroom to become international scandals, and the move to penalise UMNO leaders for speaking up against these two scandals.

All over the country, the question that is commonly asked is how long Najib can survive as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia, whether he would suffer the fate of his predecessor, Tun Abdullah in having to give up the Prime Ministership before the end of his term.

Although speculation is rife as to whether Najib can survive as Prime Minister in the present six-week budget parliamentary term ending on December 3, with a no-confidence motion by the Parliamentary Opposition leader as well as possible votes on the 2016 Budget or other major government proposals in the present meeting of Parliament, I am not optimistic that there would be sufficient numbers involving UMNO/BN Members of Parliament joining Opposition Members of Parliament to vote out Najib as Prime Minister.

This is of course subject to the qualification of great changes that can take place in the next few weeks., Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson has said that “a week is a long time in politics” but we are seeing in UMNO that “a day is a long time in politics”.

With the majority of the 300 UMNO chieftains mostly in his pockets, Najib seems to be quite safe and secure as Prime Minister and UMNO President, and could even go on the offensive against his detractors in UMNO, whether former Deputy Prime Minister or the longest-serving former Prime Minister, but the support of the three million UMNO members may not be so sure and secure.

It was recently reported that Malay voter approval for Najib’s government has reached an all-time low and Najib’s government had, for the first time, lost the approval of the majority of Malay voters.

The mid-October report by Singapore’s Straits Times cited a survey by independent pollster Merdeka Centre, that only 31 percent of Malay voters is satisfied with the government in a survey conducted in Peninsular Malaysia in August.

This is the first time approval for the government among Malays has fallen below 50 percent since Merdeka Centre began recording the data in February 2012.

The fall among Malay voters to 31 per cent was drastic as it had stood at 52 percent this January.

The government’s overall approval rating also plummeted to 23 percent, the worst since the polls started in 2012. In January this year, the UMNO/BN coalition government’s approval rating remained at 38%, the same as the previous poll last October.

As for Chinese voters, only five percent approved of the government compared to 11 percent this January.

The survey found the government’s falling approval rating was largely attributed to its handling of the economy.

The survey found only 17 percent of respondents were satisfied with how the government was handling the economy, compared to 78 percent who were dissatisfied.

There is no reference to Najib’s latest approval rating as Prime Minister, which dropped to 44% in January this year from 48% in October 2014, although from various accounts, the Prime Minister’s approval rating would have fallen to the lowest ever of below 30%.

This is the silent war that is being fought out in UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

Although overall Malaysian support for the UMNO/BN government had hovered between 50% – 55% in the three months before and after the 13th general elections in May 2013, Malay voter support for the government had been fairly constant at the 67% level.

In the 2013 general election, where UMNO/BN secured only a minority of 47 per cent of the popular vote (although a majority of the parliamentary seats, resulting in the first minority Prime Minister in the nation’s history), the racial breakdown for UMNO/BN was Malay voters 64%; Indian voters 38% and Chinese voters 14%.

The plunge of overall Malaysian support to 23% and Malay voter support to 31 per cent in August – and most likely lower now for both indicators some two months later in October with the aggravation of multitude of political, economic, good governance and nation-building scandals – are new political phenomena which cannot be ignored by the three million UMNO members, even if the 300 UMNO chieftains continue to belabour under a denial syndrome.

In these circumstances, although Najib seems quite safe and secure in his support among the UMNO 300 chieftains even though his Prime Minister’s popularity rating among Malaysians have fallen below 30% and he has also lost the majority of support of the Malay voters, the three million UMNO members must decide whether UMNO’s survival in the next general elections will lie in having a new UMNO head and Prime Minister.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah