Umno is at it again.
Even before the ink has dried on its landslide victory in the Johor state elections, the party’s leadership appears to have pulled off yet another political stunt.
In Hasni Mohammad, Umno has someone with experience as menteri besar, a one-term MP (Pontian, 2004), a four-time winner of the Benut state seat (2008, 2013, 2018 and 2022) and a genuinely popular man both within Umno and on the ground.
His popularity is clearly reflected in numbers. He garnered 83% of the popular vote in 2004, 73% in 2008, 68% in 2013 and 55.4% in 2018. In the recent elections, he polled an impressive 10,896 votes (63%) in a four-cornered fight.
In fact, Hasni was Umno’s menteri besar nominee in the lead-up to Saturday’s state elections and was the party’s poster boy. No one in Johor or in Umno can doubt that he was the architect of the party’s resounding victory.
So why has he been discarded like yesterday’s newspaper? Even party veteran Shahrir Samad has been reported as being “embarrassed” by the decision.
The justification that it was time to turn the state leadership over to the younger blood will not wash with Johoreans or Umno’s grassroots.
Onn Hafiz Ghazi clearly has the lineage, coming directly from the bloodline of Jaafar Muhammad, party founder Onn Jaafar, and much revered former prime minister Hussein Onn.
But lineage can only carry you so far. His political career is far shorter and less spectacular, having only once before sat as the assemblyman for Layang-Layang.
More importantly, Onn has not been at the forefront of this particular victory in the same way that Hasni has.
Johoreans and party grassroot members are clearly unhappy. It is no secret that even Supreme Council members were caught unawares by this turn of events. A sense of betrayal has quickly soured the sweet taste of victory.
Tomorrow’s Umno general assembly is sure to see clamours for a convincing explanation as to who made this call, and why.
At the end of the day, Umno members, Johoreans and Malaysians in general want to know what is it that Onn Hafiz Ghazi can bring, which Hasni Mohammad lacks.
Youth alone will not be accepted as the answer, and the party will surely suffer the consequences of this and other inexplicable decisions at the next general election.