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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Semuanya kerana kamu, Najib

by: Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed

The Barisan Nasional won the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat last Sunday.

The election victory was supposed to be a foregone conclusion as the constituency is nestled in the middle of the Umno rural heartland of southern Perak and northern Selangor where the party grassroots machinery is formidable and the Pakatan Rakyat branch network is sparse.

After all, the constituency was neglected by Pakatan since March 2008.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the diminishing lead partner in the Pakatan coalition mislead the public in Hulu Selangor by fielding the late Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin Ahmad as he hid his terminal cancer illness from the people of Hulu Selangor when chosen to contest the seat.

This time, PKR decided to fool the voters of Hulu Selangor and offered change by fielding Datuk Zaid Ibrahim — a former Umno warlord, cabinet minister, millionaire and main beneficiary of Umno’s affirmative policy as a corporate lawyer.

The Pakatan government in Selangor had not done much in terms of service and development in Hulu Selangor since it was elected in March 2008.

Selangor is led by Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, a political novice in running government and political campaigns and is rumoured to be aloof and treats his fellow politicians like staff in the companies he used to head courtesy of Umno’s affirmative policy.

Tan Sri Khalid’s weak leadership was compounded by the clear conflicts between the PKR and its coalition partners PAS and DAP in the spearheading the campaign machinery.

The fact that BN candidate P. Kamalanathan won did not surprise me. But his narrow majority of 1,725 votes has triggered my greatest fear.

There are a couple of conclusions that can be drawn from the election that has me concerned.

First, the election has revealed the weakness of the BN coalition partners and exposed their decimated grassroot capabilities.

They do not have strength on the ground and are totally dependent on the Umno machinery.

Thus their contribution to attract support from the non-Malay community was negligible.

Second, Umno can no longer depend on generational filial piety to guarantee unconditional support from the Malays.

The traditional chain of support generated from the grandfather demanding their sons and grandchildren support Umno to protect their interests has broken down.

The reverse is now happening where the young, the city-based grandchildren fuelled by the “Hate Umno and BN” campaign by Pakatan, are returning home to turn the elders against Umno and BN.

Third, Pakatan has done extremely well to perpetuate “anything but Umno and BN” campaign.

The sustained attack on corruption has weakened the credibility of Umno and BN.

The tables have now been turned where the opposition are now able to field “driftwood” in any constituency and still garner substantial votes, previously the norm for BN.

The failed candidacy of Zaid Ibrahim is a case in point. He is an outsider, a cosmopolitan candidate unsuitable for a rural constituency and as a Muslim who admitted to career-killing moral political baggage.

Yet, he still received 48 per cent of the overall vote.

That is not as surprising as he took 37 per cent of the Malay vote despite the negative attack on his morality and the very visible ultra Malay campaign by Perkasa.

I expected that the all or nothing Malay-centric strategy would be able to attract 80 percent of the Malay vote, a norm for an Umno stronghold.

The fact that that BN managed to get only 63 per cent of the votes is alarming. Maybe Pakatan has finally managed to get Umno members to hate Umno.

Fourth, it is very clear that the Umno leadership and members in the states where we lost power are unable to respond to the new role as opposition.

They are still lulled into a false sense of security that the people will not accept Pakatan as a viable government because of its incongruent party structure.

They forget that the people want an alternative in government. They are attracted to the idea of a two party system to achieve that goal.

They forget that they still need to work hard and deliver the service that would endear the public to them.

The close result in Hulu Selangor has exposed the weakness of Umno there.

The late Datuk Zainal was too sick to work and lead the party and offered little resistance to Umno.

The local party had two years to work and regain support from the voters, Malay or non-Malay there.

The truth is they did not work to capitalize on that advantage and I would not bet on BN retaining the seat.

I believe that the Prime Minister won the election for BN. This election marks the first time in history that a Prime Minister had spent three days campaigning in a by-election.

He is definitely Umno and BN’s greatest asset but even a Hindu god does not have as many hands to lend to constituencies in trouble at the next General Election

On the bright side, Pakatan has got nothing new to offer other than corruption and hate in their election campaign

At the same time, they conveniently forget to tell the public that they are ethically and morally corrupt by using ex-Umno leaders who have benefited in equally corrupt ways from Umno to defeat it.

I doubt these defectors joined Pakatan for altruistic reasons. Witness the defections of the independents MP’s from PKR.

I believe BN would still recover to win the 13th General Election relying on strength of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personality.

But that will not last. The party needs to refresh and clear the decks of leaders with baggage and inject fresh baggage free leaders that would appeal to the young at the party level.

Umno needs to continue to refresh its leadership ranks until it can present a slate of leaders who the voters can actually trust

If not, Najib will really become the last Umno president to become prime minister of the country.

Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed is a two-term MP for Pulai. Apart from being in the new politics, he also writes for The Malaysian Insider while debating other matters at www.jazlan.net

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Seorang Melayu Muslim yang dapat membezakan antara kehidupan seribu tahun lampau dengan kehidupan hari ini dan kini tinggal di daerah dan negeri di mana keturunan bukan Melayu menguasai politik, ekonomi, hartanah dan pendidikan.

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