Saturday, September 08, 2018

Twin by election should be wake up call for UMNO & MCA

Massive victory for Pakatan in Balakong.
So, Pakatan has won Balakong and Seri Setia despite PAS campaigning for MCA (stranger things have happened) in the former and UMNO making way for PAS in the latter (this was not so unexpected).

In the case of Seri Setia, PAS managed to narrow Pakatan's margin of victory. But is that something to be happy about for PAS or BN? Previously it was a four-cornered fight. Today it's one to one and it was a clear victory for Pakatan despite UMNO and PAS working closely together.

In the case of Balakong, Pakatan had a resounding victory of 22,508 over 3,975 votes. If there's any consolation for MCA, it's that it did not lose its deposit (in GE14 it did). Wow, imagine MCA officials consoling each other, "Hey, we didn't do so bad.... at least we are able to get our deposit back."

If before this, UMNO and MCA (and by extension MIC) think there's any way they can get back to power anytime soon, they should be disabused of that notion by now. They will be out of power for decades and might possibly never come back to power. That doesn't mean Pakatan will forever be the government but whatever opposition manages to take over in the future -- it won't be in the form of BN as we know it. And it won't be in the form of UMNO, PAS, MCA and MIC (actually that combination will surely kill all of its chances).

UMNO might try to console itself by saying it still has quite a lot of Members of Parliament. True. But watch that whittle away due to defections over time and especially in GE14. We are looking at a wipeout.

MCA is already pretty much wiped out save for one Member of Parliament. But it should understand by now that it is throughout and utterly rejected by the Chinese -- the very people it's supposed to represent.

It doesn't take a political scientist to tell you what MCA's chief problem is. It is seen as UMNO's lapdog. That was that case before the elections. It was the case during the elections and it's still the case now.

MCA tried contesting under its own flag but what use is that? People still know it's under UMNO thumb. So whether they use their own flag or BN flag, it doesn't matter.

The twin victory was important. It's the proverbial final nail in the coffin of BN.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Why it's important for Rafizi to win PKR deputy presidential election

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It's not surprising that Azmin Ali has rejected the idea of a debate between him and Rafizi ahead of the PKR deputy presidential election.

Rafizi is an intellectual and a skilled debater. You can see his performance against Khairy Jamaluddin and see what a good orator he is.

Some people don't like Rafizi because they see him as a non-team player. He does not hesitate to raise a ruckus even though it upsets certain people within his party and the coalition. In contrast, Azmin is a smooth operator who knows how to play the game and secure power. He even became MB of Selangor despite his own party preferring Wan Azizah to play that role (the Selangor Palace preferred him, however). And now he seems to be favored by Dr M, who has tapped him to become Economic Affairs Minister and even has a seat on the board of Khazanah. That's how smooth he is.

Conspiracy theorists say that Dr M is propping him up as a counterbalance against Anwar and that eventually he would become Dr M's successor. While it's hard to imagine this actually being the case given that not only PKR but DAP and Amanah also want Anwar to become the next PM, it must be said that Dr M's elevation of Azmin's status by giving him the twin prestigious roles of Economics Minister and Khazanah board member does raise eyebrows a bit. What's more likely though is that Dr M, in his wily ways, wants to check some of Anwar's clout, that's all.

If Azmin is Dr M's blue-eyed boy, it probably makes sense that PKR elects someone like Rafizi to be its deputy president. It's also useful for Pakatan as a whole to have someone who is willing to ruffle some feathers and voice out some inconvenient truths.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

What can UMNO do without a war chest?

It's staggering thinking about the amount of money UMNO/BN use to spend on the election. UMNO claims for example that the RM116.7 million in cash found in Najib's apartments belongs to the party and that it was to be used for the election.

Now we heard that security guards at the PM Department took some RM3.5 million in cash that was meant to be used for the elections.

How much more money was there that was used for the election, we don't know. Whatever it is, it's a lot.

Now that UMNO/BN is no longer in power and therefore no longer has the means to create a war chest for elections, how the heck is it going to effectively contest in elections in the future?

Former opposition parties like DAP are used to be cash-strapped. I don't know if it's still the case now but its elected reps used to have to donate a portion of their salaries to the party just so that there are funds to run the party. They run their election campaigns on a shoestring budget.

In contrast, UMNO is used to splashing hundreds of millions of ringgit to run its election campaigns. Now that the gravy train has stopped running, what can it do? How can it function as before? The answer is that it can't. This is why there is no election comeback possibilities for UMNO for the foreseeable future. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Does the 100-Days matter?

When  you are campaigning, you need to make your message clear and simple for everyone to understand. Creating a 100-Day Manifesto is a one good way to do that. It sets out clearly and simply what you want to achieve for the rakyat if they vote you into power, and it sets a time limit for those things to be achieved.

Why 100 days and not 99 days or 101 days or 75 days or 125 days etc, etc? Why 100? Because it's a nice round figure that sounds catchy and easy for any voter to grasp.

If you are a political watcher of any sort, you will know that politicians will make promises that they cannot keep. In some cases, this means promises delayed. In other cases, it means promises unfulfilled. That's true of politicians overseas and it's true here too. It's to be expected. And so it is with the Pakatan 100-Day Manifesto.

What's important is to see which promises are not being implemented and what is the reason for its delay or non-implementation.

Let's take the case of GST. Pakatan had campaigned heavily on removing GST should it come to power. This message resonated strongly with voters, many of whom felt the pinch because of the 6% tax.

Getting rid of the GST is one promise Pakatan cannot fail to do. It is an absolute must-do. And that is why even though there were some early indications that it might take some time to actually dismantle it, Dr M ordered that GST be effectively removed immediately by bringing the GST rate down to 0%.

Technically bringing it down to 0% is not the same as dismantling it. But the practical effect of it on consumers is the same as it being abolished. So the people are happy. Pakatan knew it absolutely must get rid of GST and it found a way to effectively do so. Immediately.

Another thing that Pakatan needed to do immediately was to investigate scandals, in particular the 1MDB fiasco. In the manifesto it said it would set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into such scandals. So far no RCI has been set up yet but does it really matter? Does anyone seriously think that investigations into 1MDB-related crimes are not being taken seriously or given enough attention. Yes, technically you are not exactly fulfilling the manifesto if you don't set up an RCI (as stated in the manifesto) but what the rakyat wanted is for the culprits behind these scandals be brought to justice. And that is ongoing. Nobody's going to complain about this one.

Something that is being delayed is the promise to standardize minimum wages across the country. That probably won't happen within 100 days. Is it good to have standardized minimum wages? Yes. Will Pakatan eventually implement it? There's no reason to doubt that. But it probably won't happen exactly within 100 days. Whether it takes 101 days or 110 days or 150 days or more, as long as there is a genuine commitment to see it through within a reasonable amount of time (not 1000 days!) I think the rakyat will forgive the delay.

And the same goes for the rest of the manifesto. The question is: Will there be a walk back of the promises. So far there's no indication that Pakatan plans to renege on any of the promises. But even if it were to do so on one or two items, it's important to look at whatever reasons they give for it and to assess whether it's a reasonable and acceptable argument. Perhaps there's some new developments that make it impossible to fulfill certain promises. Maybe there are better alternatives than what was promised. Or maybe it's a totally flimsy or ridiculous reason that they offer. We need to assess each situation and decide whether we feel Pakatan has been the right choice.

The alternative is of course to go back to BN or whatever remains of BN. Or simply to UMNO. Or PAS. Does anybody want that?

Khairy's Hail Mary pass

Smooth operator

In American football, a Hail Mary pass is a very long throw by the quarterback, often made in desperation when there are no other viable options left.

Khairy Jamaluddin has bet on the wrong horse twice. First he bet that his father-in-law Pak Lah could coast his way through several terms as prime minister, thus paving the way for KJ to eventually be in succession for that role himself. That plan crashed and burned when Pak Lah got unceremoniously dumped by his own party after just one term. 

This was disastrous for KJ. The party was now run by the very guy who led the charge to remove Pak Lah. And Najib deeply distrusted KJ (for obvious reasons). He wasn't even made a minister despite being UMNO Youth head. But KJ decided to play the long game and did everything in his power to assuage Najib's distrust of him. In time, Najib would come to trust him and make him a minister.

When the 1MDB scandal erupted KJ could have spoken truth to power like Muhyiddin and Shafie Apdal did. Instead, he bet on the wrong horse again and defended Najib.

Now, you can interpret that in one of two ways. One viewpoint is that KJ was a fool who actually believed that there was nothing amiss about 1MDB and that everything was hunky dory. The other viewpoint is that he is a man with no principles and will do what is necessary to stay in the good graces of his boss. Which one of these two is more likely to be the case?

KJ is an Oxford educated dude. Presumably, he is capable of reading and understanding the Wall Street Journal's (or the New York Times' or Malaysiakini's) account of what's going on with 1MDB . If the rest of us non-Oxford grads can smell something fishy with 1MDB, I'm sure KJ could too. This leaves us with the other viewpoint, which is that he is a power-hungry guy with no principles.

So, what's worse, an idiot or a guy with no principles? Well, both are terrible. Which is what KJ is.

Make no mistake, KJ is one of those guys who feels it's his destiny to become PM of this country. I'm sure deep in his heart, despite the extremely long odds, he still thinks that's a possibility. So, what can he do now that he's in the opposition, in a party that everyone's abandoned (except for MIC and MCA) and doesn't even hold any position in his own party?

He's got no good options so here's his Hail Mary pass:

KJ knows the road to PM-ship in his lifetime will not be through BN (which is all but dead) nor will it be through UMNO (which will only grow weaker with time as more elected reps and members abandon ship). No, it will have to be through Pakatan Harapan. So, his long-game Hail Mary pass will be to make his way into Pakatan and eventually become its leader.

I know, it sounds crazy but this is how this scenario could play out:

First, he will try to distinguish himself as a credible opposition member. No doubt, Zahid is the actual opposition leader but he's pretty useless in that role (even Najib is more articulate than Zahid). Make no mistake, the person everyone will be looking to for smart rhetoric will be KJ.

Even on the first day of Parliament he managed to distinguish himself by refusing to join the walk out by his colleagues in the opposition. Never mind that there was one other opposition MP, Anifah Aman, who also declined to walk out. (Anifah who?) The MP that social media paid attention to was KJ, not Anifah Whatshisname. 

KJ is already rebranding himself.

KJ will continue to play the rebel role. The so-called "conscience of UMNO" who will say all the right things while his colleagues continue to make a fool and a mockery of themselves (something they excel in). He will continue to wow the millennials who are already star struck by his hip and savvy ways.

At some point, KJ might even get booted out of UMNO, which would play quite well with the narrative he wants to weave. He doesn't want to be seen as abandoning ship. But if he gets kicked out, that's a different matter. Annuar Musa has already disclosed that KJ didn't join the pre-council meeting and MP's discussions before the first day of Parliament. He will do what he wants until UMNO is sick of him.

If KJ gets thrown into the political wilderness that would only bolster his credentials among those who are awed by him. Of course the current Pakatan leaders want nothing to do with him. Mahathir, Anwar and Guan Eng all detest him with a passion.

But Mahathir is already 93 years old and Anwar is no spring chicken either at 70. Granted, Guan Eng is only 57 but he's Chinese and therefore not seriously in line to be PM (or as Guan Eng put it, "I'm not qualified to be PM").

KJ is only 42 year old. Even if he goes for a 20-year Hail Mary pass, he would only be 62 by then. Two decades from now, we will have a new crop of Pakatan leaders and they might not be as unforgiving of KJ as the current leadership is.

Heck, some of them might even kinda admire him, especially if he's been playing the rebel role of keeping everyone in check with his smart rhetoric for 20 years. A new crop of Pakatan leaders might actually say, "Why don't we take this guy into our ranks?"

Nah! This ain't gonna happen. This scenario is as close to an impossibility as you can get. But if you want a Hail Mary pass scenario, this is it. Nothing else even has a ghost of a chance.