Some factions in Umno are clamouring for snap elections based on the party’s success in the Johor and Melaka state elections. If general elections are held soon, Umno might win again based on the formula on which it won the state elections. Then, again, it may not.
Umno won the Johor state elections on a very low voter turnout of 43%. According to Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, out of the 40 seats Barisan Nasional (BN) — of which Umno is the leading party — won, 20 or half had less than 50% of the popular votes.
It was also reported that in the urban Malay-majority seats which Umno won, the combined votes that went to Perikatan Nasional (PN) and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) made up a majority over the votes Umno got. In other words, the majority of the voters, perhaps even the majority of Malay voters, do not support Umno/BN.
That being the case, it is astonishing that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang, failed to win even one seat and instead lost all its deposits. It is important to find out why Pejuang lost so miserably as it would shed some light on the forces influencing Malaysian politics now.
Pejuang would not have gone into the Johor state elections if it didn’t have any support. It may not have formed the state government but, considering Tun’s stature, it would have won a few seats, at the least. The standard explanation given to explain Pejuang’s dismal performance in the Johor state elections is that the voters have rejected Tun and what he stands for. I beg to differ.
Tun represents a strong, albeit unbending, leadership. And, there were expectations that his party would make an impact in the Johor elections. But he fell seriously ill just before the elections and the immediate reaction to that fact was that both Pejuang and his supporters lost heart. It was a reality check for all. The prospect of a strong leadership began fading into history and Pejuang leaders had too short a time to prove that they could provide the strong leadership that their chairman represented.
Tun recovered and by the time Pejuang did, the available time was insufficient, as its president Mukhriz Mahathir explained, to engage the voters and show them their mettle. Meanwhile, the voters made a pragmatic decision: In the absence of a strong leadership, they voted for other parties.
Pejuang has been knocked down but it is not out. According to a Bernama report, Pejuang obtained 18,692 votes or 1.34% of the votes, which means it still has some support. That base support can be galvanized to create the momentum to draw increasing support if Pejuang rises to its feet, lifts up the torch that Tun has lit, stands up for this nation and lives up to its name. It all depends on Pejuang leaders now.
Why am I taking the trouble to talk about Pejuang? Let’s consider what would have happened if Pejuang had found a foothold in the Johor state assembly. Would Johor’s appointment of its Mentri Besar have been handled in the way it has?
Umno has more than a two-thirds majority in the state assembly. Any party with that kind of a majority that holds itself responsible for being accountable to its voters would have fought for its candidate. The prime minister is an Umno vice president and has the leverage to assert its federal government authority to back his party’s candidate in the state. Why did Umno acquiesce and gave in to a “higher power”?
The answer is in its court cluster leadership. Although it is answerable to the people and no one else, Umno’s court cluster would rather ensure its survival by not antagonizing the Johor Sultan whose support they might need at the state and federal levels and, especially, in the event they are convicted and need a royal pardon. That seems to be the only logical explanation.
The court cluster’s intentions are common knowledge and it revolves around one person, in particular, former prime minister and Umno advisor Najib Razak. Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has publicly acknowledged that it was Najib’s influence that won Umno the majority to govern Johor.
But what is not logical is how the Najib factor is able to demolish all the opposition it has faced and create a power vacuum that is paving the way for his comeback, perhaps even as prime minister. In that power vacuum, vested interests are asserting themselves as in Johor and neither Zahid nor Najib is stopping it.
Instead, every competitor to Najib has been removed or made irrelevant. Muhyiddin has been removed. The formidable Mahathir, too, has been pushed aside and his party struck down. Sabri is a puppet in the hands of the court cluster. Election after election, the Najib factor is gaining ground on an incredulous and inexplicable unbroken winning streak!
There seems to be more than meets the eye to the reasons for the success of the Najib factor, a sleight of hand, pulling the strings to facilitate the survival of the court cluster by ensuring that all opposition to it is removed, and, in the process distorting the political reality. I suspect it is also creating the fear of repercussions should there be any opposition to the advance of the Najib factor.
That, perhaps, is why Umno politicians are unable to do what they know is constitutionally correct. All the noise they make simply masks the fear that if they oppose the Najib factor in any way they would be burnt as Muhyiddin, Mahathir and Pejuang have.
That sleight of hand which is the Najib factor is also common knowledge. My purpose is not to identify it but to expose its modus operandi based on what is evident and, more importantly, to declare that it can be stopped!
Sever all links with the court cluster and the party of which they are members, which, in this case, is Umno.
Muhyiddin invited Umno to join PN as part of the Sheraton moves fully aware its leaders were facing criminal charges in court. Intentionally or not, he opened a channel for the Najib factor to access the corridors of political power and influence political outcomes. We have witnessed it in the return of Umno to power.
The only way to stop the Najib factor from spreading to achieve what it wants is to cut all links to it. By doing so, it will be disabled from influencing politics. Politicians and BN partners have to decide whether to remain in and with Umno. If they do and there is conflict in priorities against the priority of the Najib factor for self-preservation, be prepared to get burnt, and don’t say you weren’t warned!
PN is in a precarious situation. For the moment it is safe because Umno needs it to maintain a majority to remain in government. But, when interests conflict, the Najib factor interests will dominate and perhaps at PN’s expense. There has been some talk that some PN MPs are planning to join Umno/BN. Maybe, they should think twice, thrice, many more times or they may regret.
PH, too, needs to sever its link with the Umno-led government, which is the MoU it signed with the Sabri government. PH wants to preserve the MoU in order to introduce the anti-hopping bill. In the current political climate, the bill will deter Umno politicians from leaving and that might not be a good idea if the overriding objective is to cut ties to the Najib factor to leave Umno isolated.
An untethered Umno will be unable to form a majority government. Cutting links to Umno will precipitate a general election. By then, however, all the political parties except Umno will be set free from the creeping tentacles of the sleight of hand and can participate in the general elections in their own strengths. The outcomes will be determined by the interplay of the decisions made by politicians, political parties and voters and will be a true reflection of the support of the people.
It is the duty of the leaders to ensure that the voters are free to determine their own destiny. That will save the nation. They must act now to get back to the rule of law according to the constitution.