Tag Archives: Pejuang

Why Umno still stands today

It can be easily concluded from the exposés by Umno politicians of their leaders that their party, Umno, is heading towards self-destruction. That may happen in the future but unlikely in the imminent future such as in the coming general election.

The point to note is that it is not the leaders who determine Umno’s political standing. Leaders come and go but it is the supporters who ensure that whoever stands representing Umno in their constituency gets voted in to represent them in government.

Since Merdeka, Malay voters in the traditional rural heartland have been ingrained with the belief that Umno is the only Malay party that represents them and that their support ensures Malay dominance in government. That thinking has not changed and until it is challenged, the rural vote is expected to go to Umno despite the fact that its leaders are facing criminal charges in court.

If Umno politicians are honourable and rise up to the trust their voters unquestioningly place in them, they will hold party elections and change the top leadership. If they can’t solve party issues, how then can they govern a nation and solve national issues?

The hope is that rural voters will be able to see that their leaders aren’t acting on behalf of their supporters but for their own interests. If they can see it, then, there’s a good chance that they may not vote for Umno.

The only way to make them see the truth before their eyes in order to defeat Umno is for other Malay parties to contest the same seats Umno contests and present an alternative to Umno.

The only parties that can do that are Bersatu, Pejuang and Warisan. If past elections are anything to go by, Bersatu seems to have lost support and the small parties, Pejuang and Warisan, remain untested.

Yet, that is the only way to defeat Umno — put another Malay candidate against the Umno candidate and go on an anti-corruption campaign that the voters can understand and relate with, together with their nasi periok issues.

This is Pejuang’s strategy. If it works, it may succeed in swinging some seats away from Umno as Bersatu under former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad succeeded in swinging about 10% of the rural Malay vote to Pakatan Harapan (PH) and enabled it to form the first PH government.

If the PH-government was short-lived, the underlying factor was its inability to hold on to the 10% Malay swing vote. It went back to Umno because Umno politicians went to town claiming that the PH government was dominated by non-Malays — a sufficient argument to spook the Malay voter!

Opposition parties understand this but their supporters may not. Opposition candidates may need to explain the realities of Malay politics to their constituents so that there is give and take between Malay and non-Malay parties rather than the typical confrontational standoff.

Malay-based opposition parties like PKR and Amanah could stand in the Malay rural seats if they are able to reach the Malay voter base but if they go on a campaign of good governance and reforms it will fall on deaf ears! The rural Malay voter wants to know if his/her nasi periok issues take priority.

There is, however, one particular demographic that has been largely overlooked — the Malay urban voters who, according to the 2020 census, are a majority and underrepresented in Parliament. PKR and Amanah, perhaps, need to target this voter base and win them over.

It’s a tough task but not impossible to achieve.

If opposition parties don’t change their strategies and convincingly reach out to Malay voters, the trend to vote for Umno will continue.

A strategy to stop the Najib factor

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!

The Solution

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.

Minnows may dominate — if voter turnout is high

Former Johor Umno chief Mohamad Khaled Nordin claimed today that a dominant Umno in a BN coalition would offer political stability as there would be less bickering among coalition partners.

There may be less bickering simply because Umno would be calling the shots! Coalition partners would have no choice but to go along with Umno unless Umno chooses to accommodate them when it suits their purposes.

Non-Malays would have to be wary of a dominant Umno especially if Umno wins a majority of seats in its traditional strongholds which represent only a minority of the Malays because the majority of Malays are no longer there as they have migrated to the urban areas.

According to the 2020 national census, 75.1% of Malaysia’s population is urban and the remaining 24.9% is rural, which would suggest that the majority of the Malay population has now become urban.

When the reverse was true — when the majority of the Malay population was rural — the state and parliamentary constituencies were delineated in such a way as to give them majority representation. The Malay population distribution has changed due to urban migration but the constituencies have not been redelineated to cater to the change in the Malay population distribution.

As a result, the Malay rural areas are over-represented while the majority of Malays in the urban areas are under-represented. This is the reason why Malay parties can still form a majority on their number of rural seats.

This is also the reason why the Johor state elections are very important in showing if the under-represented Malay majority in the urban areas will come out to vote and choose the party that can best increase their representation and serves their interests.

If Umno returns as the dominant party in the Johor state elections on winning the majority of rural seats, it will be a return to the old Umno dictating politics to appease its over-represented conservative rural minority and it will be old politics all over again.

If however, Umno makes inroads in the urban Malay-majority seats and forms a majority government, there will be tension between rural and urban Malay interests and that would make it as politically unstable as the governments of the last two years unless Umno wins a majority of the urban Malay-majority seats, which is unlikely as many Malay parties are vying for the same seats.

The battle will be in the urban Malay-majority seats — if the urban Malay majority goes out to vote. It will be interesting to see if voter turnout will be high in these seats.

The first hurdle of parties whose candidates are standing for election in these seats is to draw the voters out. The next hurdle is to clearly outline what each party can offer.

After the Sheraton Move and the failures of the past two years, voters may be disenchanted and prefer not to vote. Johor voters need to be told that for the first time in Malaysian history they have a choice to change their destiny.

Pejuang, Muda and Warisan are the new parties they can choose from. They don’t have the baggage that Umno/BN, PKR/Pakatan Harapan and Bersatu/Perikatan Nasional parties come with. If the voters want to start on a clean slate, these are the parties to consider. These parties need to position themselves as such and work hard to engage the voters and present themselves as the best alternative to serve their interests.

The non-Malays, too, have a key role to play in the current political scenario — if they come out to vote. They too must be wooed to vote and not stay at home. Political parties need to clearly present to them what benefits they will gain from voting for them for a new better tomorrow. The parties representing them will have the chance to form a coalition with the Malay-based parties to form a government that truly represents all the people groups in the state.

Khaled who had spoken of a “dominant” Umno in the BN coalition as reported in the media also said that the BN’s approach to Malaysia’s multi-cultural background is “integration, not assimilation”. That may appeal to non-Malays. In practice, however, it may not be encouraged if it upsets Umno’s traditional voters.

The alternative is the new parties. Individually, they may not be dominant but together in a new coalition, the minnows may actually be able to deny Umno the dominant majority.

Towards that end, the new political parties need to work extra hard to convince the voters that they can deliver. Contrary to the pre-election consensus that Johor will follow Malacca in voting for Umno, all the focussed hard work of the new parties may actually pay off!

Factors to consider in strategies for GE15

There are two distinct outcomes of the Malacca state elections to take note of seriously in preparing for the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15).

Firstly, opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) should realise by now that it would be foolhardy for it to go into an election alone. PH, led by PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, entered the election without the help of other opposition parties like Pejuang, Muda and Warisan.

Warisan is Sabah-based and could not have been much help but Pejuang and Muda, which are Peninsula-based, could have lent their election machinery or shown their solidarity with PH parties by their presence on the campaign trail. Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman’s statement that Anwar should consider other opposition parties in seeking cooperation is telling.

Muda had wanted to contest in the state elections under PH but apparently changed its mind when PH decided to accept the two Umno assemblymen from the four who withdrew their support for the Umno-led state government causing the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Ali Rustam to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. The two were then sacked from Umno but PH coalition parties PKR accepted one and Amanah the other.

Muda apparently did not want to be associated with a coalition that accepted the defectors whose action triggered the state elections. Both Muda and PH might have had their reasons for making the decisions they did but Syed Saddiq’s point is worthy of note: PH should consider the sensitivities of its fellow opposition parties rather than choose a course of action where they go it alone.

Pejuang had previously announced it was not participating in the state elections but if PH had cordial relations with Pejuang the latter might have helped in some other ways that might have worked in PH’s favour.

Yet, Pejuang chairman helped from a distance. On the eve of polling day, Pejuang chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked for bloc voting (where every MP’s vote is recorded) rather than voice voting in passing Budget 2022 at the policy stage at the Dewan Rakyat. He failed in his attempt because PH MPs bound by the MoU did not vote for it. A minimum of 15 MP’s votes is required before the request is carried through.

If bloc voting was allowed and the Budget was defeated or won by a very close margin it might have affected the votes in the Malacca state elections. A strong united assault by the opposition would have suggested a possibility that it could win and swing more votes to PH.

It was a missed opportunity and we will never know how it would have affected the state elections. It just showed that PH failed to seize an opportunity that offered itself and use it to its advantage. PH demonstrated that same indifference in not voting against the previous Budget last year and in failing to do so legitimised an unconstitutional government. It did the same when former premier Muhyiddin Yassin resigned in August. PH could have approached Sarawak’s GPS to join it to gain a majority or let Warisan president Shafie Apdal take the lead in approaching GPS. That didn’t happen. So, we will never know now if PH could have succeeded on any of these three occasions.

These events were missed opportunities for PH to show it can work with and lead a multi-party coalition to win. If the PH leadership can not demonstrate the resolve to unite the opposition to face GE15, it will be unable to form the next federal government.

Secondly, the bank of votes in Malay-majority constituencies are no longer guaranteed to Umno. According to DAP’s Bangi MP Ong Kian Ming, Barisan Nasional’s (BN) vote share in the Malacca state elections saw only a slight increase of 1%.

However, political analyst Bridget Welsh, who is also an honorary research associate of the University of Nottingham, in her preliminary analysis of the state elections said that while Umno got a 5% increase in votes PKR lost only a small share of the vote, from 10% to 9% in its wiped-out seat losses. In eight seats Umno won by narrow margins of less than 5%.

This suggests that with a concerted and united effort, PH may be able to win back the seats it lost and, perhaps, even win new seats.

Of all the parties that took part in the state elections, it is said that Bersatu performed beyond expectations because it was expected to be wiped out but, instead, won two seats in Sungai Udang and Bemban. Welsh attributes this to the younger voters who were looking for alternatives to Umno and found it in Bersatu.

Bersatu president Muhyiddin however may not be jumping for joy. With all the cash that he poured into the hands of the B40 group during his administration under the guise of covid-19 aid and which continues under Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Muhyiddin believed he could make a clean sweep. After all, just before he resigned he did say that “millions” supported him.

That would be a sobering fact that the support he thought he had was illusory.

The Malacca state elections reveal that the Malay-majority voters have seen through the antics of their leaders and have not fallen for it. Voter turnout was low at around 66%; cash aid didn’t tempt voters to surge out of their homes to vote. Fear of covid-19 and being fatigued by self-serving politics could be the reasons for the poor turnout. But, it can also mean that an increasing number of Malay voters are now ready to vote for candidates other than Umno.

If Umno believes its performance in the Malacca polls will be repeated in GE15, it is going to be disappointed. Malay-majority seats will become the battlegrounds in GE15 and it will be fought hard by multiple parties in multi-cornered fights.

Umno, Bersatu, PAS, Amanah and PKR in some cases, and Pejuang will be contesting in the Malay-majority seats. Pejuang has already announced that it intends to contest in 120 of the traditionally Malay seats held by Umno.

Malay votes are going to be split. No one Malay party is going to get a majority to form a government on its own. It will be forced to form coalitions. The Malay parties like Umno, PAS and Bersatu may go it alone and when unable to get a majority will join forces together with Sabah and Sarawak parties, post-elections.

If, however, Pejuang emerges with a significant number of Malay seats, it would be interesting to see how the coalitions change to accommodate it. The first choice of Malay-based parties will be other Malay-based parties, which means PH will only get the leftover parties and it may not be enough to form a government.

It would be in PH’s interests to preempt that possibility by entering the elections with an already firmed-up coalition. Otherwise, it may be left in the cold on the opposition bench.

The Sarawak elections on Dec 18 will see if Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) will slice into GPS’ super majority. If it does, that is another party PH has to consider to form a PH-Plus coalition.

PH should first consider fellow opposition parties like Warisan, Pejuang, Muda and PSB to form a PH-Plus coalition. It will be the only progressive coalition that will be led by both urban and non-urban Malays and represent all the major people groups that make up Malaysia. It will be a formidable coalition that will be hard to defeat.

That is an opportunity that GE15 offers. PH should make sure that it does not become another missed opportunity. It is up to Anwar to make sure that that opportunity happens.

Capitol riot, PN leaders and the rule of law

The riot at the US Capitol when President Donald Trump’s supporters breached security and entered the building has besmirched the reputation of western democracies which have always prided themselves on their non-violent adherence to the rule of law — no doubt. Yet, despite the initial chaos and melee, eventually, the rule of law was restored.

The supporters were egged on by Trump to gather at the rally as he made unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen from him although he had lost both the popular and electoral votes. The rally was meant to be a last-ditch effort to prevent Democratic candidate Joe Biden from being confirmed as the presidential election winner by the US Congress.

At some time during the rally, the crowd surged and pushed past the security officers who retreated, followed by the crowd who entered the building. One person was shot and killed and three others died of medical emergencies during the seige.

It was mayhem but the leaders didn’t fail the nation nor the democratic processed. The election was held, the votes were counted and recounted and congressmen met at the Capitol to confirm President-elect Biden as the winner. And when the siege happened, the National Guard was called, the Capitol building was secured, and a number of Democrats started calling for Trump to resign. A day later several Republicans in Trump’s own staff handed in their resignation. And Trump finally announced he would ensure a smooth and orderly transition of power to Biden. The rule of law upheld.

A democratic tradition does not mean that everything will go by the book. People being human will do all sorts of things but good leaders — not necessarily great leaders — are those who will adhere to the rule of law. In the Capitol siege, in the end, there was resolution because the leaders, including Trump, followed the rule of law. And political stability was restored.

Here in Malaysia, we have Sheraton Moves, Sabah moves, dismissal of all 46 corruption charges against a former chief minister, failure to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, sacking of an elected Speaker, the appointment of an unelected Speaker, vote-buying, MP-buying …  Where on earth is the rule of law?

The Prihatin Nasional (PN) claims to be a caring coalition but it does what it likes and calls it the new normal. What we are seeing in the PN is simply a law unto themselves.

Look at its coalition partner Umno who has been threatening to leave the PN since the Sabah elections when they didn’t get the Sabah chief minister’s post. It had on two occasions in the past, working with Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim, threatened to pull out of PN but it never materialised. Now it plans to discuss the cutting of ties with Bersatu, the small party which insists on leading the PN government, at its general assembly on Jan 31.

Will it materialise or, like always, at crunch time, they quietly back out after kicking up a fuss and creating a storm of hot air? Bersatu president and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will maintain a strategic silence and wait to see if it actually happens. If it doesn’t happen, he escapes by the skin of his teeth!

Maybe, he knows what I suspect, that Umno will not carry through its intention. He is willing to risk instability in order to remain in power. That’s all PN leaders want — power. But how they wield is beside the point.

Take Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan who has publicly declared that the reason for his party’s gripe with Bersatu is due to the latter’s “cruelty” in continuing with the corruption cases involving Umno members. Maslan and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Umno adviser and former prime minister Najib Razak are among a number of Umno members facing criminal charges in court.

“Cruelty?” Don’t only little boys cry “cruelty”, “unkind”, “you’re hurting us” when disciplined and try to weasel their way out of facing the consequences of their actions? Maslan is so wounded that he doesn’t realise he is suggesting executive interference? Bersatu is to be blamed because it invited this party lead by people facing court cases to join the PN. Where on earth is the rule of law? That was sacrificed for the sake of political expediency.

The actions of Bersatu ministers are also suspect. The appointed Speaker refuses to exercise the independence afforded to him under the law to decide on a no-confidence vote unless he gets a directive from the minister. Just recently, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s party, Pejuang’s, and former minister Syed Saddiq’s Malaysian United Democratic Alliance’s (Muda) applications to be registered as political parties were rejected.

Tun said at a press conference that the Registrar of Societies said that Pejuang’s application was in order but it had to be referred to the minister, the Home Minister in this case.

Is this the rule of law? Any Malaysian’s application for registration of a society or party must be approved if it’s in order. A minister can’t reject it for whatever reasons especially when the reasons are not given. That’s denying citizens our right of association.

We want the rule of law, not leaders who are a law to themselves. Such leaders should never be allowed to govern.

The Opposition needs to take up the cry for the rule of law. They are being too quiet. There should be loud demands for the PN government’s resignation. And, responsible ministers in PN’s government must resign on their own volition. They need to put the nation first.

Learn from the US experience.