Who should we vote for? Mahathir or Anwar brand of Politics

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There are 39,030 voters in the Kajang constituency of which almost half are Malays, 40% Chinese and 10% Indians.It can be argued that the brand that receives the single largest investment by way of promotion is the Nehru-Gandhi family name. Dozens of institutions carry this label, and the media is awash with ads on days that mark significant milestones in the lives of these leaders, in particular those that have departed the world. That this should be so in a democratic country like ours is reason for disquiet, and this has been much commented upon. But what is equally striking is how ineffective these attempts to build the family brand has been in spite of all the investment that backs it. For a family that has ruled India for almost five decades, and done so with the explicit consent of the Indian public (except for a 19 month period), the reputational assets that it has gathered leave much to be desired. This is spite of a concerted attempt to drive home the contribution of the family at every possible occasion.Can an election ever throw up the right candidate? Or to put it more moderately, is an election the mechanism best suited to throw up representatives that will strive to work for their constituents and attempt to better their life? Are there in-built into the electoral process, a set of imperatives that help pre-determine one kind of outcome, irrespective of the quality of the candidates?

The idea of patriotism is not necessarily or inherently “a pernicious psychopathic form of idiocy” that the witty Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw called it once. Human feelings of love and attachment with one’s place of birth and upbringing and selfless service for its betterment,  after all, are benign, natural and perhaps, evolutionary too. But patriotic notions can become exactly the idiocy Shaw referred to when individuals or institutions symbolizing patriotism attain stature of unquestionable gods and dogmatic religions.Increasingly, it would seem that what it takes to win an election is not only very different from what it takes to govern, but might well be at odds with the idea of providing governance. The privileging of representativeness in our democracy, with an emphasis on caste and religion, has meant that electable candidates are chosen with a view to who has the biggest electoral draw in terms representing the interests of a community rather than select those that have a view on issues of policy or administration. At one level, democracy does not require its practitioners to come equipped with a track record, and representativeness is perhaps the most vital element in the idea of democracy, but over a period of time, what representativeness has come to mean identity rather than action; the leader resembles his or her constituents, speaks for them and on the occasion that he or she acts on their behalf, it is often through the same narrow lens of community. Under these circumstances, the election abets the process of weeding out those that see their role in more secular terms, and focuses its attention narrowly on those with more sectarian agendas.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim meeting residents from the Permatang Pauh parliamentary constituency to explain PKR’s ‘Kajang move’ in Penanti yesterday. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, February 2, 2014.

The middle class distrust of politicians is in part a sense of frustration with the electoral process. Part of the reason why visible outrage does not automatically translate into higher voting percentages is because the idea is laced with a sense of presumptive futility.Pakatan Rakyat cannot talk about being an alternative government if it fails to weather the current “storm” in Selangor, says the opposition leader.Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said last night that in recent months the state had come under “attack” on several issues which had tested its leadership.the apolitical nature of the struggle is found valuable. The disenchantment with the movement is in part due to its involvement in electoral politics; the paradox being that the impetus for change cannot succeed unless it becomes a variable in the elections but the very act of getting involved with anything to do with elections is seen as an act of contamination. Electoral reforms will help. But too much has to change before reforms by themselves can be effective. As a structure, elections cannot create intent; that must exist in the system. Without intent, the structure merely re-inforces and perhaps amplifies all that is already wrong. Even when elections are not rigged, in some ways they always are. If not by design, then by definition.Anwar was referring to the “Allah” issue, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department’s raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia premises in which 320 Malay and Iban Bibles were confiscated on January 2, and the water issue, among others.The underlying assumption of elections is that every individual takes a personal decision, on the basis of the inputs received, to choose the person deemed suitable to represent his or her interests. The truth is in the Indian social construct, the individual does not necessarily act as a singular entity and is often inclined to act as part of a larger collective. This is true not only of elections, but of many other walks of life. The election is in some ways almost asking for people to find their own appropriate collective and to cobble together enough numbers so as to increase the bargaining power at their disposal. It is rational to do so, for otherwise every individual feels virtually no ability to influence the outcome.

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim (right) greets his critic, PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, as Anwar looks on, at the Kariah Mosque, on January 31. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, February 2, 2014.

The poor reputation of Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, is quite undeserved. Janus was not double-faced simply because he had two faces. He could look east and west simultaneously without swiveling his head; but this was clarity, not deception. His hindsight helped foresight; the charm of a door is that it enables you to go in as well as go out. January is named after Janus: one year disappears, another enters. Many voters are, of course, still swayed by partisan emotion. But a significant majority will be influenced, in Kajang, by calm logic. This is already evident from the opinion polls bouncing around media, predicting an Pakatan victory, and reaffirming Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim  as the preferred favourite Selangor Menteri . As controversy rages on over what appears to be a ‘coup’ to oust him.doesn’t appear to be rattled.

Malaysia’s economy began to creak and collapse much before, but it was in 2013 thatMalaysians  were firmly convinced that problems which could have been resolved were allowed to accumulate into a serious crisis. An economic freefall is not some theoretical statistic for the voter. It translates into specifics: prices rise, jobs evaporate, confidence falters, hope evaporates. Voters blame governments rather than traders for a price rise, because they expect government to control profiteers, not surrender to them. A slump in economic growth aborts future jobs and threatens existing ones. These are bread-and-vegetable issues. It was in 2013 that governance and the economy became dominant factors in the gradual process through which voters make up their minds before a general election.

As Kajang’s electoral fog begins to clear this January, we can see that how precisely cause begets effect. The substantive failures of 2013 are shaping the general elections of 2018. Instead, Abdul Khalid said that although he would prefer to complete two terms as MB, whether or not he leaves the post before that will be up to him to decide.

He explained that if he decides he has done enough as Selangor MB, then he will not fight any push for him to resign.

“If I feel it is necessary (I will step aside), but (not) if I don’t feel it to be necessary. If I cannot do reforms, then I will stop because it means I’m not working anymore. If I can do the reforms, I will do them,” a relaxed Khalid said in an interview with Malaysiakini today.
“I will not fight it if I assess that I have done enough in fighting for reform.”Try this sequence of questions: Who can set the economy right? Not those, surely, who created the problem. What kind of government can turn things around? A stable one, capable of taking tough decisions. Can a remorseful and repentant PAS or UMNO lead a stable coalition? Not likely: its own numbers have plummeted to less than half of in opinion polls, and allies are either breaking off or increasing their distance from Mahathir camp.No prizes for guessing who’s left Najib might not be able to walk on water, but at least he can walk on land, unlike the competition, which stumbles disconcertingly whenever it tries to move at all. So is it all over bar the shouting? Not quite.  Abdul Khalid Ibrahim  has attracted voters because he is the outsider, poised, in their wish-list , to cleanse i of corruption, end dithering and propel the economy forward as happened in Selangor. The one thing   Khalid Ibrahim  cannot afford to do is slide into the syndrome of politics-as-usual as he expands from regional concerns to national priorities. He cannot abandon the old school, for that is where present politics lives; but he cannot look stale even before he has begun. It is a tight-rope walk. For now, he said, he does not see the necessity for his resignation and that there is still much work to do.However, loyally toeing the party line over PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s candidacy in the impending Kajang by-election, the MB said there will be no bad blood if Anwar eventually tells him to pack his bags.Asked if this would be a betrayal, he said: “No, the one who makes the decision is me.“Stepping aside means you (as MB) cannot do (the job). I will accept that. Unless you want it fight it, but no, you don’t. You pack your bags and then … you have a lot of books to write.”Having withstood pressure from within the party for five years, Abdul Khalid downplayed the latest escalation of events as “nothing abnormal”.

This is the double-face that becomes dangerous once february is over.

For better or worse Dr Mahathir Mohamad has shown how a leader of a nation should be. Despite Malaysia being a small developing country and often misplaced on the world map, Mahathir did not ‘kowtow’ to the more powerful nations especially the US, Britain and the West. He looked East.

As the most powerful man in Malaysia he wielded his power to take things as much under his control and achieved what he really wanted, to the extent of making sure that even the courts interpret the laws as what Mahathir wants them to be interpreted.

Those who were against him, whether they were from his cabinet members, chief ministers, BN leaders or government servants were removed from his team of diehard supporters. But those that he could twist their minds would be given second chances. Those he held by the balls remain subservient to him.

Now as long as he is still alive, he wants to make sure that Malaysia be moulded into what he had envisaged, and maintain his legacy, if not create a dynasty.

But as human, he has limitations, thus he had to pass the baton to another trustee to continue his mission to achieve his vision. Mahathir knows that none of his children would be able to undertake the responsibility but he had hoped that Anwar Ibrahim could do the job because he saw the potential in him (Anwar) and Mahathir hoped to groom Azmin Ali as the next in line.

His plan was disrupted by the various circumstances both domestically and internationally. As a man who can evaluate people’s performance and potentials, Mahathir knew that both Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak are hopeless; both have not shown any leadership traits but just waiting patiently to receive the baton. At least Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah proved something when he challenged Mahathir while Abdullah obediently waited 22 years without proving anything. Najib on the other hand got the job just because Mahathir removed Abdullah from power.

Mahathir’s mistake was to believe that being ‘hopeless’ both Abdullah and Najib could easily be manipulated to follow his orders. They are in fact more hopeless in taking orders! We all know the history and both Abdullah and Najib have miserably failed him.

While Abdullah was a total failure despite the scheming by the ambitious but naïve son-in-law, it was easy for Mahathir to push Abdullah aside. Najib is a little bit problematic because he is a bit clever and able to cling to power until today despite being worse than Abdullah. Najib also has the ever ambitious Rosmah.

Mahathir is absolutely convinced that the longer Najib stays in power, the worse it will be for Malaysia; at least in Mahathir’s vision of Malaysia anyway.

The efforts to remove Najib have started before the previous GE13 but Mahathir did not want to rock the boat which may end with Umno-BN losing in the election then.

The grapevines have been abuzz that Mahathir has given Najib the ultimatum to either step down or make things better based on Mahathir’s wishes. Some people say March 2014 is the deadline.

But after tasting power, Najib is addicted to it and Rosmah would be nagging day and night if Najib simply bows to Mahathir. Rosmah wants Najib to defend his position if not go down with a fight.

PKR is now in turmoil in Selangor. Anwar has not given due rewards to Azmin Ali despite his unwavering support in good and bad times. Initially when the prospect of Pakatan Rakyat to win GE13 was considerably high, Azmin was hopeful for a very senior post if Anwar became the Prime Minister, thus Azmin was not envious of the Selangor Menteri Besar post. When Umno-BN managed to win GE13, Azmin had no choice but to just let things be.

But for how long Azmin has to wait? The chances of Pakatan Rakyat and Anwar to form the next federal government is still slim because the opposition cannot depend on the ballot boxes; Umno-BN has perfected the art of cheating in the polls, well, almost.

Mahathir has never lost his sight on Azmin because he is the one who brought Azmin into politics, into Umno and his close association and unwavering support to Anwar is on Mahathir’s advice. Anwar of course knows this very well and he has reservations in trusting Azmin fully.

When there is a persistent complaint from Azmin against almost everything related to Khalid and Selangor, Mahathir realises that this is the golden opportunity to lure back Azmin into his fold. In fact there have been talks circulating in the political community that Mahathir has discussed with Azmin to bring along as many PKR/PR members of parliament in helping to oust Najib.

Najib is fully aware of this possibility that some Umno MPs will abandon him for Mahathir’s team. Therefore Najib has sought Anwar’s help in giving full support to ensure Najib stays in power when Mahathir makes his final move. Therefore Najib and Anwar will scratch each other’s back to say in ensuring Najib maintain the status quo.

But why must Anwar prepare to take over control of Selangor?

Although Khalid has been able to make PAS, DAP and most of the Selangorians happy, he is not a politician; he is a frugal corporate manager. When Mahathir, Najib, Anwar and Azmin make their political maneuvers, Khalid will not be able to make the corresponding and complimentary political moves to ensure PR and Anwar stay intact or even stronger.

Khalid has been criticised openly by Azmin and several other detractors but without any clever and conclusive reactions from Khalid. Khalid has also been reprimanded openly by Anwar yet Khalid either acted dumb or naively, not like a suave politician. Anwar has no choice but to replace Khalid because it is all about politics.

After knowing the move made by Mahathir, the takeover has to be hastened, thus many observers were caught off guard with the resignation of Lee Chin Cheh. Even many PR leaders are also bewildered by the rapid chain reactions, thus we hear many angry voices from them and their supporters. However in Umno, the infightings have never subsided, thus nobody in Umno is surprised over the recent events.

Anwar has to accept Najib’s offer of some sort of reconciliation; his Sodomy II case may not end up in his favour. Najib may not take actions on other PR politicians and let PR control Selangor. Anwar on the other hand also hopes that with Najib in power, there is a better than slim chance for the opposition to win the GE14.

Najib and Mahathir will have their own duel which may result in either one winning. Mahathir may be able to take control of Umno and Najib may form another Malay party with the help of Anwar. If Najib managed to still control Umno, albeit a weaker one if many MPs sway to Mahathir, he may form a unity government to keep Mahathir’s team at bay, at least until the GE14.

As for PAS and DAP they will not lose anything whatever the outcome maybe because they are not the ones wielding the power even now in Selangor. In fact at the national level they may be better if a ‘unity government’ is formed; some may get better jobs.

There is no clear picture yet on the possible outcome but Mahathir, Najib and Anwar are in the final phase of political lives; their last chance to make or break. It is interesting to watch things unfold as we go along and wait for the outcome of the Kajang by-election.

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