Dennis Ignatius: An election to decide the fate of Zahid Hamidi

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Anyone who is willing to endanger the lives of voters by insisting on elections during the monsoon season certainly does not have the welfare of the people at heart.

After bullying and badgering Prime Minister Ismail Sabri for months, UMNO president Zahid Hamidi has finally got what he wants most – early elections. While the King himself called upon the nation to brace for predicted heavy rain and widespread flooding, Zahid has pushed the nation into premature elections at the worst possible time. But then he had no qualms calling for elections to be held even during the pandemic too, remember?

It is a measure of the man’s desperation. With dozens of serious criminal charges hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he knows that his only hope of survival now is a change of government, a government under his control.

Zahid has rather disingenuously argued that in view of the political instability that has plagued the country since the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in February 2020, it’s time to return the mandate to the people. What he omits to mention is that he himself was instrumental in stealing the mandate of the people via the infamous ‘Sheraton Move.’

As well, he has done more to destabilise the country than anyone else, all in a relentless quest to save himself. Along with Najib Tun Razak, he went out of his way to stymie the Pakatan Harapan administration at every turn, maliciously playing up racial and religious issues. After the PH government fell, he turned his guns on Muhyiddin Yassin.

After Muhyiddin’s administration collapsed, he went after Ismail Sabri despite the fact that Ismail was himself from UMNO.  He precipitated early elections in Melaka and Johor to force the prime minister’s hand. He tried to coerce UMNO members in the cabinet to abandon Ismail; he incited the party against Ismail at every turn.

Anyone who is willing to endanger the lives of voters by insisting on elections during the monsoon season certainly does not have the welfare of the people at heart. He is no patriot ready to sacrifice his all for his country; what he is demanding is that the citizens sacrifice their safety and well-being during the monsoon season just to save him from judgement day.


If Zahid wins, Malaysia loses.

Ismail may have made a deal with Zahid to allow him to continue as prime minister in the event UMNO forms the next government, but if Zahid leads UMNO to an election victory, he will call the shots. Even if Ismail is reappointed PM – and that’s a big if – Ismail will be nothing more than Zahid’s puppet, there to do his bidding until such time as Zahid is ready to make his move.

Crucially, a new UMNO-led government under Zahid’s control would not only be able to appoint a more amenable attorney-general, it would also be able to directly interfere with the judiciary through the appointment of more pliable judges and the harassment of recalcitrant ones. The outcome will be fairly predictable: the charges against Zahid (and other UMNO leaders) will quickly be dropped.

The implications will be far-reaching. Our justice system will be fatally compromised. Our democracy will die. Corruption and impunity will cast an even longer shadow over our nation. What little hope for national unity that’s left will vanish. Our economy will wilt under the burden of corruption, skewed policies and incompetence. Many will leave.

Zahid says that UMNO has learned from its defeat in the last general election. Perhaps, but not in the way he wants us to believe. If UMNO has learned anything over the last few years, it is that it must never again lose power no matter what. For UMNO, power has always been about the right to rule and plunder with impunity. That has not changed.

What this means is that should UMNO come to dominate the next government, GE15 might well be the last moderately free elections we will have. You can be sure that UMNO will quickly move to revamp the entire governance system to ensure it remains in power indefinitely.

No wonder Zahid described GE15 as “the mother of all general elections”.

Now it’s up to the voters. How they vote will determine not just the kind of government we will have but the kind of country that will emerge in the post-GE15 era. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

To be sure, voters are weary of all the politicking and instability. Uppermost in their minds after these tumultuous years of political infighting, pandemic and economic turmoil are jobs, inflation, putting food on the table and taking care of their families. It’s hard to be thinking of the long-term future of the nation when you are preoccupied with more immediate concerns.

Everyone is jaded too. Politicians make all sorts of promises when they campaign for votes but never keep their promises. How many times have the people voted for change only to see the status quo reinforced. Even now, none of them offer the voters anything to get excited about.

But Zahid is counting on our apathy, disappointment and weariness as well as the inclement weather to win just enough seats to dominate the next government. For that reason alone, we must rouse ourselves to action once more and go to bat for our nation. It may be inconvenient. The weather may be bad. We may not be as excited or enthusiastic as before but we must go out and vote to put an end to all his scheming and to all the instability he has created just to save himself.

Stopping Zahid, and by extension UMNO-BN, is the most important task before us now. We pawn our future if we put it in the hands of men like Zahid; if we stop him, we might just keep a little flicker of hope alive for that better Malaysia we all dream of. – Dennis Ignatius