Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why Mahathirism no longer works


There appears to be a concerted effort by some people within Umno to undermine Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Is it a coincidence that most of these people are aligned to or had at one time served under ex-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad?

How would one view this? Would this be considered interference? Would this be called sabotage? Have we forgotten that when the same thing was done to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006-2007 Umno and Barisan Nasional almost fell in the 2008 general election?

We have always said: If Umno and Barisan Nasional do fall it will be because of internal bickering and sabotage by its own members, machinery and leaders. And yet this is precisely what they are doing.

The Umno warlords justify this attack on Najib by saying that it is just advise to make the Prime Minister see the error of his ways and make him come back to the right path and is not really meant as a move to oust Najib.

The more vocal critics say it was a mistake for Dr Mahathir to appoint Najib the Prime Minister and hence the ex-Prime Minister has to correct his mistake.

How many ‘mistakes’ has Dr Mahathir made in appointing his successors? First it was Musa Hitam, and then Ghafar Baba, followed by Anwar Ibrahim, and finally Pak Lah. No one is ever good enough. And it is all because none have the Mahathir-touch and can match Mahathir in running the country.

But Malaysia of the 1980s and Malaysia of today, 30 years later, is a very different place. With the advent of the internet, blogs and social media, the people are more informed.

Furthermore, Malaysia’s population and number of voters have more than doubled since Mahathir took office. And the demographics, too, have changed. Because of urbanisation and urban migration, the voters in the cities and towns have surpassed those in the rural areas -- plus the age group of these voters has fallen sharply.

In short, to put in bluntly, Mahathirism, as some people call it, no longer works. And this is what many of the ‘Old Guard’ do not appear to understand.

Even the on-going use of the Sedition Act on some opposition leaders is being condemned. The government will have to tread very carefully lest this move triggers negative repercussions. Umno-Barisan Nasional is not going to be a very popular government once the trials begin.

The crime of sedition is not about what you say but about the intent behind what you say. Hence the government needs not prove what you say (which is on record anyway) but why you said it. And intent is not easy to prove because intent is not what you say but what is in your heart.

If the court kicks out these cases because the prosecution failed to prove intent, the government is going to be very embarrassed. And if instead these people are sent to jail, the government is going to face a lot of criticism. This is where, both ways, the government loses.

The Sarawak state election next year is going to be very crucial. This will more or less determine what is going to happen in the next GE around 2017-2018. And the next GE will decide whether Umno and Barisan Nasional will still be in power.

Hence the Najib critics had better back off and not pressure Najib to return to the era of Mahathirism because that would be a sure recipe for disaster -- for Umno and Barisan Nasional, that is. Najib must propagate reforms and be seen to be serious and sincere about it. If not, then Umno’s and Barisan Nasional’s days are numbered.

This is what the ‘Old Guard’ needs to understand. To win the hearts and minds of the people you need to introduce reforms and not get tougher with them.

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