Mukhriz is single reason for a major defeat of Mahathir’s team in round one
Mukhriz groping in the dark when it comes to tapping Malaysia’s irrepressible youth
indicates how old you are. If you’re a venerable, mature sort gives brighter ideas, you might look atMukhriz indulgently. You might murmur about his surprising choice of words – ‘nonsense’ which ‘deser-ves to be torn up’ chinese needing ‘Jupiter’s escape velocity’, et al. But it’s possible you’ll note his sentiments,the empathy behind the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe-style analogies.s youth today are unique. Every young generation energetically questions the status quo, but UMNO’s youth does something more. Clearly, this is a generation shaking off constraints, its self-determination challenging social norms. More young people are marrying across identity lines and fewer are willing to stay bound, divorces reportedly doubling since 1990. This intense transition mirrors individualism amongst the young, choosing the right to reject in manifold ways, working hard and playing harder.
Mahathir is the ever powerful don, who has branded the party in his racial outlook and legacy of money politics. In every state, he effectively played divide and rule to maintain his position. Yet, his direct hold on the party has waned with 22 years out of office and the slow regeneration that is happening within Umno. half as concerned about the future of UMNO as Mahathir is about the future of i, UMNO might have been far more capable of fulfilling his dream of making Mukhriz prime minister of Malaysia. After all, the UMNO is corrigible
Despite his stature, Mahathir was clearly the loser in last weekend’s results. He tapped into an old family battle between Sanusi Junid and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in backing the challenger to Abdullah’s son-in-law Khairy, Akhramsyah Sanusi, who was soundly defeated.Many analysts do not appreciate the role of another don, Abdullah Badawi. A large share of the current delegates are more beholden to Abdullah rather than Mahathir himself. Even as Abdullah’s reputation within UMNO is mixed, with him receiving much of the blame for the loss of the party’s position and the 2008 election results, those in the leadership positions remain quietly loyal to Abdullah. They remember who ousted whom from office.
UMNO is projecting a genuine message of reform or engaging in a practice of reform,Najib’s success can be seen as a product of the decision to ally with Abdullah’s people in his cabinet selection and in the run-up to the party polls. The reality is that the Abdullah factor weakens those seen as close to Mahathir and his allies. This Najib-Abdullah alliance is targeted to offset any possible challenge to the existing leadership and consolidate Najib’s position within the party.
Another possible loss is also on the cards. His son appears not to even have the support of a majority of delegates in his own state of Kedah, as many see Mukhriz Mahathir’s rise as premature and view his record in the party not in fitting with the credentials of a vice-presidency as he has not served in senior party leadership positions or government before GE13.
, UMNO members (often like the Opposition as well) speak to one another and reinforce their own world view of contemporary Malaysia. They are a family, often tied together with close personal links through marriage and school networks, especially at the elite levels It is thus not a surprise that his allies have won so far and are favoured to win in the upcoming Vce-President and Supreme Council elections this weekend. The dynamic is such that UMNO members want the financial rewards. With a big pot of possible contracts on offer, it is not in the interest of those in the system to rock the boat.
What has enhanced the power of Najib and the incumbents in general is the change in the electoral system to more delegates. Judging by the number of complaints from last weekend, money politics continues to be prominent and the advantage lies with the multi-million war chests of the incumbents.
Change is a mist which floats through events, often obscured by the daily cloudburst of facts. It is noticed least by those it affects most. Politicians have a sharper eye than they are given credit for, but they can miss the obvious. A tectonic shift is taking place in the structure of party politics. After a long and dominant reign, the high command is dead. It has become a dinosaur, a museum piece whose skeletal jaw hints at the massive bite it once possessed. Mahathir the last inheritors of a concept that has exhausted its moment in history. After him, there will be command, but it will not be very high.There is also a more ‘democratising’ element in the campaign. In earlier UMNO polls, targeted financial rewards would be primarily spent to woo the chosen delegates. Now money politics has partially moved away from the direct payments to more mass dinners and shared rewards, at least on the part of those who lack the comparative resources to compete with the incumbent war chests.
There are now multiple generations of intertwined family networks that play out during the party polls. Elite families have become deeply entrenched across generations. Even as the number of delegates has reached 145,000, the bonds between UMNO members run deep – from the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) training to the shared experiences in a particular UMNO wing and also in business as partners and competitors.
In this UMNO family dynamic, those who attack its members are the enemy, and those under attack are heroes. The greater the criticism of a particular minister from outside UMNO, the higher the status of the individual within UMNO. This works in reverse to normal logic, where more attacks weakens a candidate.
Let us not write off the party members of Umno who are forward thinking. In fact we should support them. By painting everyone in BN with the same brush as evil and corrupted, we will only be strengthening the hand of the extremist elements this is an indication of a more balanced and forward looking Umno youth. After the entry of Perkasa types, there is no more room for extreme and irrational approaches, Umno has taken a severe beating in credibility and needs to rise above it. Perhaps interesting times lie ahead if Khairy and his crew hold their course. Mahathir will have to play his last cards to secure his son in power, or face the reality of his declining influence. Ironically, Mahathir faces the challenge of the legacy he left behind – money politics.
How can we understand why UMNO is moving in a direction so far away from its statesman history? Will there be any leaders elected that the more than the 30 percent who voted for UMNO respect? Is there any hope of reform from within? What helps us understand the outcome of the elections?
Simplistically, analysts point to the role of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, positioning himself as a behind-the-scenes challenger to Najib. They paint the victories last weekend as wins for Najib and victory of ‘liberals’, missing many underlying dynamics in the party.
This election is much more than the product of Najib versus Mahathir as it involves psychology, financial interests and personal ties.