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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Umno Postponement: Does The Prime Minister Take Us For Fools?

Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysia Chronicle

When Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that the Umno elections at the branch, divisional and Supreme Council levels were to be postponed for 18 months to ensure the party’s survival, he was only half right: He should have said it was delayed to guarantee his survival as party president.

He said, “This is provided for in the (party) constitution which we have used on several occasions so that all our attention and efforts can be directed at strengthening the process to provide the needed strength for our party.”

He opined that Umno ‘did not want next year to be turned into a platform for a political struggle that can cause factionalism within Umno’ and made indirect references to the internal politicking with PKR’s direct election: “We don't want a situation that is most stressful as was what had occurred in another political party, so we decided to postpone the election based on the party constitution.”

Najib’s prediction is not particularly strange given the current state of his own party. Perhaps he should have remained silent if he is unable to come up with a morale boosting and motivating rally for his own party members.

He shrugged off suggestions that the delay was related to the forth-coming general election: “To my knowledge, such a decision was made three or four times before and there was no problem or something unusual.”

Umno supreme council elections had its first postponement in 1999 which was deferred to May 2000 because of the 1999 general election. In 2008, the same thing happened and the Umno election was held in March 2009 instead.

It would be outrageous for Najib to suggest that he is unaware of what is happening as he is understandably trying to protect his position, by claiming to want to ‘strengthen his party’. But must he really take us for fools?

It is not so much that Najib has no confidence in his own party. It is more that he knows his party has no confidence in him. Moreover, he is an unelected prime-minister.

Najib’s 1Malaysia propaganda exercise is a sham. Around him teachers, civil servants and even his ministers ignore the ‘I am a Malaysian first’ line.

Around him, people are wary of the Umno leadership which smacks of arrogance and shines in complacency.

He said, “We will continue to make changes based on the New Political Model where I have outlined seven principles, and this we will further improve and we will explain on the 1Malaysia concept and how Umno, which places the people's interest first, (looks after) the interest of the people and (emphasises on) our delivery system.”

Despite promises to look after the interests of the people, Umno old style politics is still being preached.

Despite calls to clean-up the country, Najib allegedly openly offered RM5 million to the inhabitants of Sibu in exchange for their votes, in the Sibu by-election.

Perhaps one noticeable change might be how Umno is actively wooing the younger voters whose political allegiance is yet to be determined. Younger voters might well be the group which wields the most influence.

Nevertheless, Najib’s mouthpieces are at work. Umno vice-president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi criticised PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail's keynote address at the 7th annual national congress recently. He condemned her rejection of the Malay supremacy concept as a ‘diversion’ from the allegations of fraudulent practices within the party.

The Home minister Hishammuddin Hussein, another Umno vice-president, said that
Wan Azizah's statement was politically motivated to cause unease among the various races. He reiterated how PKR leaders would stoop to any level to garner support from the people whilst disregarding the long term development of the nation.

Najib may claim that he is postponing the Umno election because he has a duty to strengthen his party.

But isn’t there a simpler reason?

If he were to hold the Umno elections now, i.e. before GE-13, he knows he’d be slaughtered. He is aware of rumbling within his party, others are vying for his post, and the party will suffer at GE-13. Would he be willing to step down in the interests of party unity? There goes his presidency!

Najib’s 1Malaysia plan is unraveling and calls of ketuanan Melayu are not actually helping him. If GE-13 were to be called before the Umno elections, Najib might still be slaughtered, his status as prime minister would then be under serious threat.

Thus, in comes the cavalry in the form of Mahathir Mohamad and Rafidah Aziz – two big guns who will guide the party machinery to ensure that the party does not flop.

Therefore, other than those with a personal or professional interest in seeing him survive, it's hard to find anyone who supports Najib Abdul Razak. Except perhaps, his wife, Rosmah Mansor.

With her beside him, Najib has no choice. He will know that he's doing the right thing.

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