Numbed Nought

Old Pals

We have all heard it before from the same person: “I have the numbers to become the next Prime Minister.”  It was first uttered in April 2008, then again just before the Pakatan Harapan administration fell, and again yesterday.  It has, thus far, come to a nought.

It may have come as a shocker for many.  The KLCI fell 0.7 percent and closed nine points lower on Wednesday after the announcement was made.  To be fair, the KLCI has been on bearish for almost a month now. It was at 1578.55 points on August 24th and is at 1496.48 points on September 23rd.

Other than that, Anwar’s claim has been met with scepticism.  “We will have to wait to see if this is another episode of making claims that cannot be substantiated,” said Dr Mahathir over Zoom at Nutanix ASEAN CIO Virtual Summit about his former deputy who is famous for making repeated unsubstantiated claims of having support for the premiership.  Many others think that it is just Anwar’s way to ensure that the voters in Sabah’s state elections will jump on the Pakatan Plus band wagon and support ‘the winning team.’

Numbed by Anwar’s occasional antics, I hardly find his announcement believable, let alone a shocker.  However, a statement that followed and made by another politician got the ‘WTF’ reaction from me.  Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, whose court case against him is far more solid than the one against Najib Razak, announced that UMNO and BN cannot stop any of its Members of Parliament wanting to support Anwar to form a government with Pakatan Plus.  As a matter of fact, Ahmad Zahid said that he ‘respects’ the decision made by the UMNO MPs wanting to jump to the other side.

For a few hours there was silence on the part of Zahid’s supporters.  And then came the spin – the statement is a ploy by Zahid to pressure Muhyiddin’s ‘greedy’ PPBM into asking for a dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election.  In other words, according to his supporters, Zahid is extorting Muhyiddin for a general election to be called.

For the life of me, I find that the lamest excuse that I have ever heard in wanting to dissolve a Parliament.  In order to try get a general election going, all it needs for UMNO to do is to leave the PN government, or maybe Zahid has never read and understood the Federal Constitution.  Once the sitting Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the Lower House, he shall tender the resignation of himself and that of his cabinet, or advice the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament.  That is all it takes.  No extortion needed, and UMNO does not have to be in an administration that DAP is member of.  It is a bizarre statement coming from Zahid, the President of UMNO.

But Zahid, and his ill-read supporter should also remember this:  Parliament can continue for five years from the date of its first meeting till its next dissolution, and in the meantime, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can appoint another member of Parliament whom, in His Majesty’s judgment, has the confidence of the majority of the House’s members. So, Zahid can threaten Muhyiddin but the Yang di-Pertuan Agong can still refuse to dissolve Parliament. That would be a double whammy for UMNO.  And looking at how fluid things are, not one party would dare to go through a general election now until forced to in 2023.  So, is UMNO ready to be partners with PKR, DAP and Amanah?  I strongly doubt it.

UMNO’s No.2, Mohamad Hasan, said that UMNO is still part of the PN administration and shall continue to support it. “Any change in its stance must be decided by the party,” he said when commenting on the issue.  Other UMNO MPs such as Nazri Aziz, Shahidan Kassim and Khairy Jamaluddin have all rubbished the claims.

A word of advice for UMNO.  Winning seven by-elections does not mean that the whole country is now rooting for you.  In a general election, the game is played differently.  Majority of the urban voters are still against you.  Sabah has not exactly accepted you.  Sarawak still cannot trust your Muafakat Nasional partner, PAS. The nation only accepts Muhyiddin and his multi-party band of senior ministers.  Not even the rest of Muhyiddin’s cabinet has the trust of the people. With Zahid trying to play big brother, the wounds of the last general election will bleed again, and people will remember the greedy UMNO that they brought down two years ago.  You are now part of a government without having to wait another three years to go through an election – so be thankful.

As for Zahid, he should learn to behave more like a statesman than a numbnut.  He often speaks before his brain could process the outcome.  A party president is the person who sets the path on which the members in his party should follow.  If he, as UMNO’s President, cannot control his MPs to form an administration with PKR and possibly DAP as he says, he has no business staying on as the party president claiming that he is looking after the interests of the Bumiputeras.  Or is there a deal that he has made with Anwar for a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card?  If that is true, then shame on him.

UMNO: OVERHAUL OR SINK INTO A GREAT ABYSS

AHMAD Zahid Hamidi, who was until three days ago adamant on staying on to helm Umno, has finally stepped aside to allow his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, to lead the grand old party.

Ahmad Zahid was not seen to take charge after taking over the president’s seat from his predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.  

His win in the party elections that secured his position is said to be due to three factors: that he is the continuation of Najib Razak‘s leadership (to which we have not seen any resemblance); that he had a strong social media team to bombard members with campaign materials  at the eleventh hour before the votes were cast; and, allegations of vote-buying which had recently surfaced.

The sad bit is that Umno grassroots have been left without direction.  Unlike Pakatan in previous elections, Umno per se did not organise ceramahs to win back the hearts and minds of voters after the loss.  Instead, Zahid’s leadership hung on to a saying by Sun Tzu that the greatest strength is found in silence.

This silence further drove grassroot members and supporters in the Malay hinterland alike towards the arms of Pakatan Harapan (PPBM in particular) and Pas because they are the only Malay parties that are actually doing and saying something.

It is understandable with the comical nature of most of the government’s Cabinet members, staying silent watching the Pakatan-led government crumble due to its own doings is probably the best thing to do.

Umno and Barisan Nasional component party members do not have to do anything much except wait for the moment to give voters the “I told you so” comment. 

But global economic conditions will change, and cabinet members will wise up. You can already see this in the likes of Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu.

Both are seen to be going on the ground to learn the ropes of their trade. Dr Dzul is streamlining the health policies to continue to make medical treatment affordable for both the people and the government, while Mohamad has formed the Armed Forces Veterans Council, a very much awaited move that has eluded the veterans who would like their voice on how they should be treated, heard.

Other than that, the Prime Minister has his Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) to act as a buffer as well as a damage-control council any time a Minister blurts out not-thoroughly-thought-of remarks.

Umno was left with 54 seats after the previous general election – the single party with the largest number of parliamentary seats.  Fear of being taken legal action against, as well as the seemingly lack of direction from Zahid, saw Umno MPs jump to the other side.

For seven long months Umno under Zahid neglected the Malay strongholds – the kampungs and especially Felda.  

Some 59 percent of Felda voters voted for the BN (UMNO), 24 percent for PAS, and 17 for PH (mainly PPBM). In the kampungs, BN (UMNO) retained 47 percent, 19 percent for PAS while PH garnered 34 percent.

Khor Yu Leng broke this down further in her article (The Edge Malaysia, 17 December 2018) to the states of Johor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan where the Felda districts are mostly located. 

She found that in the Johor Felda districts, 70 percent of voters chose Umno while in the kampungs, both Umno and PH had 45 percent each.  Pas trailed with only five percent. 

Pas had support in the Pahang FELDA districts and kampungs where it received 35 and 25 percent of the votes respectively, while PH only received 10 and 25 percent. BN received 55 and 50 percent respectively. 

However, both BN and Pas saw a huge decline in support from the Felda youth segments in both Negeri Sembiland and Johor.

With commodity prices declining rapidly and cost of living increasing rapidly, I fail to see the logic of staying silent waiting for the moon to fall into Umno’s lap. 

I seriously do not understand why Umno hasn’t gone into the Malay hinterlands to take advantage of this.

I have always opined, again it is my opinion, that someone difficult to target such as Tengku Razaleigh should have been the Opposition Leader, while Mohamad Hasan look after the administration and management of Umno.  

Ku Li is the president Umno almost had, while Mohamad Hasan’s approach is seen to be welcomed by the voters. Even Ahmad Maslan is consistent in his role as an opposition MP.

It is extremely important for Umno to see what the voters want, not just what it wants.  Without the voters’ approval, there is no way for Umno to make any form of come back. 

This talk of bringing Najib Razak back as the Opposition Leader should be stopped.  His brand is a damaged brand and it is unlikely that the voters other than those in Pekan would like to see him back so soon at the helm of the country. 

An Umno member might disagree, but if you ask any urban voter disenfranchised by Pakatan’s flip-flop policies, Najib is out of the question – at least for now.

Umno also needs to stop fielding heritage candidates like Ku Nan, Nazri Aziz to name a few.  Start looking at the younger generation. We have a great deal of young voters who need fresh political air to breathe in.  If Umno refuses to evolve, it will die.

Talking about young voters, something caught my eye that could be a breath of fresh air — that tea-chat session between Rafizi Ramli, Nurul Izzah and Khairy Jamaluddin. They could be the precursor to a third force.  

In spite of their political leanings, the three are idealists, as are other younger politicians like MCA’s Chong Sin Woon, DAP’s Ong Kian Ming and PKR’s Wong Chen.  

Imagine if they are to form their own party, both BN and PH would have a tough time holding on to their current seats in the next general election. 

This is why Umno needs a total overhaul, do away with the little Napoleons and get idealistic younger candidates fielded.

But before then, send these potential candidates out to the Malay hinterlands and let them engage the voters there.  

But that has to be done now. If Umno chooses to remain silent and wait for the heavens to fall into its lap, be forewarned that the heavens may float up, but they contain masses that may sink Umno into a great abyss from where it will never float to the surface again.

(This article was first published by The Mole)