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Election Watch

GE-13 Outcome Difficult to Predict, says Dr. UMNO

Source: Malaysia Chronicle
Date: 3 April 2012

Former Prime Minister (Tun) Mahathir Mohamad admitted that it would be difficult to predict the results of the 13th General Election due to the "confusing" signals received from the ground.

"What is certain, it won't be easy for BN to get two-thirds majority this time. The Opposition now is not like that of the past, and the current situation is rather confusing," Bernama reported Mahathir as saying.

Such an acknowledgement must have been hard for Mahathir to make, given that the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition is led by Anwar Ibrahim, who he has tried hard to chop down to size and even oust from the political arena completely.

In 1998, fearing Anwar's popularity and growing clout with the Malays, Mahathir threw trumped-up sodomy and corruption charges at his his former Deputy and succeeded in jailing Anwar for 6 years. It was only after Mahathir retired that the Federal Court could summon enough courage to overturn the charges and acquit Anwar.

Now 64, Anwar is poised to lead the Pakatan into its second General Election as a coalition. Although denied formal registration by the Registrar of Societies, the Pakatan parties of PKR, PAS and DAP have signed a Common Policy Framework and agreed on a joint manifesto - the Buku Jingga - for GE-13 which is expected to be held before the end of this year.

Gaining strength

Since the 12th General Election in 2008, the Pakatan has been gaining from strength to strength, with two of the four states it governs - Selangor and Penang - praised by the Auditor-General as being the best managed. Both Penang and Selangor have also drawn most FDIs, trouncing the BN-ruled states.

A resurgent Anwar and Pakatan are now rated as having an even chance on improving on their 2008 electoral performance, with many pundits predicting they might even wrest the Federal Government from Prime Minister Najib Razak. Mahathir apparently shares this view, saying that the various assumptions made about the support for BN were fluid, with some people saying it was increasing and others saying otherwise. Mahathir did not point the finger at anyone, but a day ago, he called on Najib to allow 'outsiders' to contest for seats under the UMNO ticket.

Mahathir lamented the shortage of 'smart' Malays in UMNO, for which perhaps he is most to blame due to his refusal to soften his hardline stance during his 22-year rule from 1981 to 2003. Indeed, during his tenure, Malaysia experienced huge 'brain drain'' including from the Malay community, but Mahathir had always dismissed the issue as minor and with a 'let them leave if they wish' stance.

"None of Mahathir policies contributed to building a succession line in UMNO, so what is there to say now. And the damage was not only to UMNO but extended to the overall economy, where Malaysia lost talent beyond what it could afford. The effects on the economy are being played out now and if not reversed soon by fresh policies and reforms, we can expect further all-encompassing deterioration," Ramon Navaratnam, the Chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, told Malaysia Chronicle.

Najib failed to deliver

In recent weeks, former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin had predicted BN would easily win in only three states - Johor, Melaka and Pahang. A large portion of the blame has been directed at Najib for failing to lead UMNO-BN out of its quagmire.

UMNO appointed Najib as its President in 2009 after forcing his predecessor Abdullah Badawi into early retirement for losing 5 states out of 13 to the Pakatan as well as the BN's long-held two-thirds majority in Parliament. Mahathir and other UMNO leaders had hoped that Najib would reverse the slide and regain the crucial two-thirds majority, which would allow them to amend key laws to stay in power for perhaps a few more decades. But Najib's clumsy political maneuvers were soon rejected by the people, who now see him as a fraud.

In his comments, it was telling of Daim to point out that if Najib failed to improve on Badawi's results, he would have to step down in favor of either his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin or a 'new challenger'. So far, no dark horse has emerged but bets are on that it could be Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has lambasted Najib for his haphazard policies and weak leadership.

During Najib's tenure which began in April 2009, Malaysia suffered its worst bouts of racial and religious intolerance. Extremist groups such as PERKASA and JATI were sponsored and allowed to flourish. At the same time, Najib preached policies of moderation to the West. But it looks like even they have found him out, with the influential Washington Post slamming him as a "champion of double-talk".

Nonetheless, even with his mandate to rule expiring in March 2013, Najib has continued with the same strategies of gutter politicking against Anwar, using racism and religious bigotry to scare the Malays into voting for UMNO so that it can 'protect' them from the non-Malays.

Economy soft and Corruption rampant

Meanwhile, the economy remains neglected and soft due to Najib's frequent overseas trips which have been criticized for burning a hole in taxpayers' pockets. Corruption remains at a record high, with Malaysia slipping 4 spots to 60 in the 2011 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. Malaysia scored 4.3 compared to New Zealand, the least corrupt at 9.5, and Somalia and North Korea who each scored 1.0, making them the two most corrupt nations in the survey. In ASEAN, Singapore scored 9.3 and Brunei 6.3.

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