Monday, April 20, 2015

Current political environment


I think Malaysia has never gone through this period of political turmoil and uncertainty as we are facing today. Of course the opposition parties are stronger than it was prior to the 2008 and 2013 GE's. On top of that the opposition is perceived to be more articulate. The subjects they raised are well researched than those brought up by the government backbenchers. Whether the Opposition is good or not, responsible or otherwise it does not matter, what matters most is the perception that they are performing better in Parliament and outside as well as at campaign rallies and trails. They are also seen ahead of the BN in optimizing the use of social media or the cyberspace for spreading their political ideology and propaganda. 

The proposition that the government is weaker than the opposition is happening against the backdrop of PAS and DAP split on the Hudud issue. We may disagree on the public perception of the opposition party but the reality indicates this to be so. The BN must take stocks of its state of readiness to face the GE otherwise it may wake up the next morning after the polling day of the 14th GE that it has lost the GE, instead the opposition has won a landslide victory to form the next federal government. This could be a shock and a bad dream for the BN. 

This could be reversed if they work very hard from now and consolidate their team and campaign strategy. They have to revive public confidence on them. To do this there is a need for a lot of listening and willingness to take radical actions to rectify weaknesses including revamping the UMNO HQ especially certain specific crucial positions and even the Cabinet.

The problems faced by the BN is tremendous. I think in sum it suffers from two kinds of weaknesses, namely internal and external. The internal dimension is due to the lack of solidified strategy, unity and loyalty of party members at the grassroots and the leaders. Many people feel they have not changed politically in term of attitudes and approaches.

On top of that the party or government is inundated with incidences or mishaps that have negative implications including in the way they handle or manage issues or crisis. Those incidences or issues at times not responded immediately or too slow. The government and party leaders must have common stand and members of the administration must not give their personal views but must give similar views as the government or party. They must avoid shooting at their own foot rather than targeting at their opponents. The BN actions and reactions to issues are at times considered inconsistent or insensitive or even callous to public sentiments. 

Government actions surprisingly are not seen to be solid. Worst still party and government leaders are not seen effective communicators in the explanations of their own policies. Thus they are often seen inconsistent due to their inability to explain or defend their own policies effectively. There is a strong belief that they rely too heavily on the so called experts who don't seem to understand politics or the domestic political undercurrent. 

External dynamics made the situation worst such as the tragedies of Flight MH370 and MH17, and most recently the helicopter crash that killed the PM's most trusted aide. On the economic side the slides of the Ringgit against major currencies and more damaging is the scandal of the 1MDB. 

Furthermore the implementation of the GST created so much uproar, dissatisfaction and unhappiness within the party members and the public even though the tax is a good tax. It is more perplexing when the government spoke person did not handle it well. On the ground the public complain on the rise of the cost of living and shops and traders increased the price of goods and services.This gives unnecessary advantage to the opposition. 

At this stage it is important that they get out of their safe or complacent syndrome or under the false belief that they cannot be defeated.

What is obvious the PM receives a lot of pressure from within and outside the party to resign. The strongest and most formidable critique is Tun Mahathir and his ardent supporters ranging from former Ministers namely Tun Daim, Tan Sri Sanus√¨ Junid, Tan Sri Zainudin Maidin and a well-known former Straits Times Chief Editor Dato Kadir Jasin and ordinary party members. 

The UMNO position amongst various party leaders vis-√†-vis the position of the Prime Minister lacks clarity or certainty. These continuous questions and asking for explanations or allegations against the PM would be the greatest challenge. Tun has a broad based support amongst party members as well as the electorates. Under the circumstances the opposition need not do much but to recycle the bullets produced by Tun M to shoot at UMNO or BN with devastating effects on the government and the party. 

Even though the party leaders have instructed their party members to adopt the attack mode against the opposition but due to the ugly spat with Tun M they are still unable to do so and are still taking a defensive position. Whether Tun M succeeds in ousting Najib or not, is yet to be seen but what is clear the party is badly damaged. Whether it can recover or not will only be telling after the GE14. However the party and its wings have come with a statement of full support for Najib. The opposition is already gearing up for the general election. The early indicators would be the outcome of the by-elections in Parliamentary seats of Permatang Pauh and Rompin. I think BN will win Rompin but there is a pssibility it can also capture Permatang Pauh. Albeit the spat between Tun M and Najib is definitely bad for UMNO and BN in the immediate and long term unless something happens to change the landscape.

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