RSIS Luncheon Roundtable with Abdul Kadir Jasin, Journalist; Media and Communications Advisor to PM Mahathir Mohamad (2018-2020)
UMNO’s Decline and Its Implications for Malaysia’s Politics and Governance
The results of Malaysia’s 15th General Election in November 2022 show that the role of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) as the representative and guardian of Malay and Muslim rights in Malaysia is being challenged by other Malay-based parties such as Bersatu and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and to a lesser extent by the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). Nevertheless, UMNO has secured itself a place in the new Anwar Administration with six ministers in cabinet.
For more than five decades, UMNO had dominated Malay politics, centralised administrative power and tightened its grip over the political economy. In that time, it had shaped Malaysians’ and, in particular, Malays’ mindset on politics, governance, race and religion. With the electoral defeat of UMNO, and its coalition Barisan Nasional, in 2018 and again in 2022, Malaysia’s erstwhile governing structure appears headed for disruption and transition. Or, it may simply be succeeded with minor tweaks by the Anwar led-coalition for now, and other Malay-based parties.
In this context, the seminar will address the following questions:
- Will UMNO continue to decline or could it recover? What are the determinants?
- What is the effect of UMNO’s cooperation with PKR and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on their respective trajectories and base support?
- How will Bersatu and PAS work to cultivate UMNO’s Malay base and replace it?
- What are the implications of the above for Malaysian politics and governance?
About the Speakers
Abdul Kadir Jasin was Special Media Advisor to Mahathir Mohamad during the Pakatan Harapan Government (2018 – 2020). He was the Group Editor and Group Editor-in-Chief at New Straits Times Press Group from 1988 to 2000.
Educated in Malay and English schools in Kedah, Kadir Jasin began his journalism career with the Malaysian News Agency (Bernama). He had been awarded the New Zealand Colombo Plan Scholarship to study journalism at the Wellington Polytechnic.
After moving to the New Straits Times Press Group in 1976, he received the Mitsubishi-Press Foundation Editor of the year in 1978. He was awarded the Malaysian Journalism Laureate by the Malaysian Press Institute in 2012 and has received an Honorary Doctorate of Letter from the University of Science Malaysia in 1998. He has published 11 books in both English and Malay.