SELDOM is an election won through smear, a government’s reputation through passing the buck, and credibility though tabloid journalism, sensationalism and scandal.
Elections are more often than not won or lost on the basis of practical policies and problem solving by a capable leadership. The incumbent in government in Malaysia has till now enjoyed an advantage over the policy vacuum of the opposition. That’s about the extent of its advantage. And it’s not enough.
The sociopolitical atmosphere in Malaysia today is so toxic neither side of politics appears to be able to see the wood from the trees or the bridges to reconciliation which have long since been burned.
In the beginning it was the opposition that initiated the dangerous and scandalous practice of slurs, smears, race and religious baiting of the majority Muslim population. The opposition then remains beholden to the politics of “Regime Change”, an initiative paid for by the failed Clinton Global fund in Washington.
Government, instead of dealing decisively with these “agents of influence” bent on destabilisation , abrogated its responsibilities to engage instead in pork barreling. And by default this threat was allowed to thrive.
Government, some say by neglect, breathed life into the authors of the mantras of hate and division, spawning a generation of anti-government portals and writers by its silence.
Government, many more say, has been the architect of its own problems.
The inaction of government has divided the country to the point there is hardly any middle ground left in Malaysian politics. But that’s not all.
They seem to have a knack for turning into enemies those who come to them as friends. Deepak Jaikishnan is not the first or last of that category.
The controversial re-entry of an ageing but wily political veteran in Dr Mahathir Mohamad into the cauldron of politics on the side of the opposition has met with an equally unsettling event by government. This being government’s volte face in its engagement of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.
But is this part of the wayang kulit of Malay politics? Or is it a more sinister ploy working against a beleaguered prime minister? No one yet knows.
Dr Mahathir may yet have the last laugh in this game of thrones. The tide appears to have turned against government, though not quite as decisively as some would claim.
The opposition continues with its claims of the alleged theft of billions of dollars of from 1MDB by the prime minister. The stench of death from the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaaribu lingers over the government while a radical and oppressive past returns to haunt Dr Mahathir in more ways than he would like.
A government with such a large war chest at its disposal appears tired, ineffective and bereft of a strategy to make optimal use of its assets. The old war horse of Mahathir plods ahead menacingly like the resurrection, living proof of his invincibility and indefatigability, and his superior tactical skills over Barisan Nasional as a seasoned political street fighter.
MO1 NEEDS A NEW BATTLE STRATEGY & HE NEEDS IT NOW
What Dr Mahathir has done in the few months of his return is more than what the entire opposition was able to achieve in over a decade.
Singly, Dr Mahathir has dictated the agenda for the election fight. He has distracted and enticed an unwary government into a gutter trap, away from the issues of policies, politics and governance.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s bluster and sensationalist blogging is a very poor judgment call. He has few friends, even less credibility and zero pull and journalistic credentials. He is a strange bedfellow for a government in sore need of something, – anything – to counter an opposition on the ascendency.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s involvement smacks of desperation on the part of government. Whosever idea it was, it needs to be culled. Government needs a new battle strategy and it needs it now.
The prime minister’s inner circle is rife with eavesdroppers, chatterboxes, speculators and empire builders. Advisers and personal assistants to those close to the prime minister have been engaging in highly destructive, treacherous, loose and loud whispers in their social circuits. Fatally for the prime minister, Dr Mahathir has a mole in his inner circle. In the form of a close family relative of his. It has long been a well kept secret everyone except the prime minister appears to know about. If not checked this mole will blow up in his face like the Deepak Jaikisan episode did.
History is replete with examples of ambitious, restless minions and confidants in service to the King building empires within. Each waiting to seize that opportunity to rise above their otherwise lowly stations.
It was why the kings of Vietnam and China castrated their pages as a pre-condition to service in the royal household. That was a radical practice designed to eradicate the prospect of betrayal and a stealthy entry to royal lineage by ambitious servants. It was also a means to avoid leaks. Eunuchs had no status outside the royal palace. Castration guaranteed their loyalty within.
Unfortunately as each day goes by, leaks arm the opposition. They weaken the prime minister. Dr. Mahathir is kept regularly informed by his moles who maintain close ties with people close to the prime minister and his family. That there are leaks is no longer a secret when foreign media organisations appear to know more in detail about the prime minister’s agenda than those in his own cabinet and inner circle.
Since the gloves have come off, an unwieldy opposition of disparate interests led by the redoubtable Mahathir is flexing its muscle.
And this situation does not bode well for a weary and exhausted government without an effective strategy in place and always on the defensive. Dr. Mahathir has the undivided loyalty of Perkasa and several other fringe groups of rural Malays now on the rise. It is very much his style. He created them as part of his strategy.
Unless BN is able reinvent its strategy into one that can put the coalition back on the rails and regain the momentum and credibility it once enjoyed, it will have to fight uphill, and in the mud, with pigs.
In a fight with a pig, BN will have to stoop to the level of the pig. Either way, the pig wins as both combatants are more likely to come up smelling like swine than roses. That’s no victory. And it’s not a metaphor a Muslim-led government would like to be associated with either.