KUALA LUMPUR,. Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan’s imminent opportunity to retain the Rantau will only further consolidate his leadership in Umno despite his only being an acting president for now, several pundits have said.
Senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Oh Ei Sun said a win in Rantau would definitely raise Mohamad’s — or Tok Mat as he is popularly known — stature within Umno and among Malay voters.
“But he still has to deal with a resurgent, albeit ‘resigned’ Najib. A defeated Mohamad would dent his political future, paving the way for Najib’s comeback,” he said, referring to former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Mohamad has been Rantau assemblyman for three terms since 2004, and has won straight fights against PKR where he initially won the seat uncontested in 2018.
He was previously even the Negri Sembilan mentri besar.
The Rantau by-election was declared after the Federal Court dismissed the appeal by Mohamad to reject the decision of the Seremban Election Court on November 16 last year which declared himself as the winner of the Rantau state seat as null and void.
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia associate professor Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid said Mohamad’s chances becoming party president may be realised sooner than later if he successfully defended the seat.
“He is favored by many Umno incumbents and members. He has held Rantau seat since 2004 and his sound track record attest to his leadership capability and capacity,” she said.
Tasmania University’s Asia Institute’s head James Chin however said there was no guarantee Mohamad will be president despite having the advantage should he wins but this could change if an annual general meeting was held to appoint the latter officially.
Malay-Muslim agenda to be ramped up
They also agreed that the combination of Umno and PAS in pushing for Malay-Muslim interests, which gained traction in the previous Cameron Highlands and the latest Semenyih by-elections, will once again be played up.
“My guess is that Umno-PAS will play the same narrative of the Malays being marginalised by PH but this time they will ramp up as they want a bigger majority and they have the momentum after the two by-elections,” Chin said, referring to Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.
Chin warned that such narratives could be detrimental to the country if it gets out of hand as more people from Umno-PAS accepted the “Malay-Muslim supremacy” strategy as a winning hand.