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Monday, October 17, 2011

Dr M and Najib shadow-box over GE-13: Who is fighting smart, who is not?

Sulaiman Kamal | 2:22 PM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Former premier Mahathir Mohamad seems to be working feverishly hard to get Prime Minister Najib Razak to delay the 13th general election, a rather odd thing to do when you consider that Mahathir is supposed to be retired.
At 85, he should be counting his blessing and allowing the current establishment a free hand in running the country. Yet, the still wily and sharper-than-a-knife statesman is obviously concerned that under Najib, Barisan Nasional may finally see its demise and this would spell disaster for all that he has built during the 22 years he was prime minister and sole arbiter of the fate of 28 Malaysians.

Yes, Dr M was that authoritarian, and that emboldened a network of cronies and massive corruption to foment and take root in Malaysia. Once BN goes, there would be a lot of reckoning and accounting for, which Mahathir and his supporters cannot afford. Hence his golden retirement will have to wait a while more.
Already, the cracks are appearing with Mahathir’s cronies making the evening news. The Ananda corruption investigation has kicked off in India, and there is increased public scrutiny for the MAS-Air Asia share swap which has brought to light the ties Mahathir has with Tony Fernandes.
Adding to these woes, it is a fact that there is less public trust in BN; with dwindling support for MCA, Gerakan and MIC from their communities and the internal splits in UMNO that threaten to make the BN irrelevant amongst young voters.
Smack in face for the PM
Most recently, the dismay of Budget 2012 sums up Najib’s ethos in running the country; a country of “one off” hand-outs has prompted Mahathir to advised the Malays to change their “freebies” mentality.
“I know many people in this country go for free things. But we should feel ashamed when we take something for free,” he said in his speech when launching the Ummah Unity and Economy Seminar organised by the Malaysia Islamic Welfare Organisation (Perkim) and Malay Chamber of Commerce.
Mahathir, who is the Perkim president, added that Muslims, who were among the poorest communities in Malaysia, should work hard to be financially stable.
Now, this is a strange comment when one takes into account the various measures Mahathir has put into place to grant the Malays and Bumiputras more leverage in the economic marketplace.
Is Mahathir really saying that the effort to empower the Malays has not been successful and thus BN needs to remain in power longer to achieve what he had failed to accomplish? And under Najib, has the economic state of the Malays and the country come to a stand-still?
If so, that is a smack in the face of the 58-year-old scandal-plagued Najib and portends political skullduggery that he should well be stay on the alert for.
Enters Muhyiddin
Najib in being the mere replacement for Abdullah Badawi, feels the pressure to prove himself worthy of being prime minister. He has yet to receive a public mandate to lead Malaysia and as GE-13 looms ahead, he is eager to create a grand tidal wave that can sweep him to power for another term in office.
But this is not easy, since some are beginning to turn to Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister and number two man in UMNO said to enjoy Mahathir's support for the Umno presidency. The number two spot in UMNO has traditionally also been the deputy prime minister's spot. For some it has been blessing, yet for many the spot is jinxed.
Would Muhyiddin Yassin risk gunning for the number one post in the coming UMNO General Assembly? Or would Muhyiddin wait his turn and eventually replace Najib as number one and subsequently be prime minister?
Thus, owing to the bleak scenario facing BN and UMNO; a delayed election date would be advantageous if BN is aiming to remain in power with or without Najib Razak at the helm. It would give them more time to realize Budget 2012 and also to win back much needed support from their grass-root supporters and to fix their internal problems before facing a public vote.
Less advantageous to Najib
However, a delayed election is less advantageous to Najib.
So to pile the pressure on Najib to delay polls, Mahathir, the seasoned politician that he is, has been quick to point out that polls should be held as late as possible in order to handicap the Pakatan Rakyat.
The election at the state assembly level will depend on the respective state governments whether to dissolve the assembly or otherwise. If the legislative assemblies in the four states under the Pakatan Rakyat are not dissolved, we will see the election being confined only to the states under the BN rule, Bernama reported Mahathir as saying.
"As such, they already have four states under their rule. They will concentrate on the other states to expand their domination. However, if the general election is held too close to the expiry of the five-year mandate, they will have no choice but to dissolve the state assemblies,” he added.
One is still smart, the other favours short-term thinking
This is smart thinking by Mahathir. With the huge resources at BN's disposal, Pakatan cannot afford a battle on all fronts - at both state and parliamentary levels. And if Najib follows through with Mahathir’s line of thought, Pakatan is in serious trouble.
Mahathir is an objective and master tactician unlike Najib; who thrives on public adulation and poor fore-sight. A protracted battle is what Mahathir is aiming at, knowing full well Pakatan Rakyat is ill-prepared for this, yet Najib seems to favor a quick skirmish - consistent with his short-term view of things.
This call by Mahathir to delay polls will not go unnoticed among the UMNO ranks and many would see the logic behind his reasoning. Whether Najib will listen and follow through with his predecessors suggestion is open for debate; serving only to add to the guessing game of when will Malaysians decide in GE-13?

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