No end to politicking in 2022

WE are going into another state elections, this time in Johor, the fourth since the general election, and our 12th if you include by-elections.

Since 2018, we’ve also had three federal government changes and as many prime ministers, and four state government changes. These major administrative moves do not include leadership reshuffles, tussles, scandals and such. Most of these occurred after the pandemic started, and the situation does not seem to be losing steam.

Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Perikatan Nasional (PN) have signed a memorandum of understanding to put a halt to hostilities and focus on getting the country through the pandemic.

This was a natural progression from the then worsening pandemic, ensuing economic woes and political strife. Both parties have their reasons for calling a truce – PN to lower the political temperature and PH to obtain equal funding, giving its elected reps less cause to cross the floor.

Ironically, Johor, the latest state to call elections, was once the model for such cooperation. It had  a speaker from the opposition PH, and the previous state administration was among the first to commit to equal allocations for both sides of the aisle.

The death of former menteri besar, assemblyman Osman Sapian, which is said to have triggered instability in Johor, is no excuse to go to the polls.

The one-seat majority was said to have caused consternation and that elections were the remedy.

Many state governments are governed with small margins, as is the federal government.

The Kelantan government of 2008 governed the state with just a one-seat majority, staving off attempts to induce crossovers, by-elections and dederal pressure.

At the end of the day, it boils down to party discipline and political will.

On the flip side of this idealism is political reality and the opportunism that comes with it.

Despite their many flaws and issues with their leadership, and even the split within their party, Umno has seen its popularity and political fortunes soar rather than diminish.

Najib’s popularity, while maybe seems illogical to those averse to 1MDB and other scandals, makes political sense. At times of uncertainty, people often turn to things they are familiar with.

With little aid to help them through the pandemic, with political strife and split at every corner, Malaysians who grew up in Najib’s era of BR1M and single-party rule, perhaps long for the comfort of certainty – of a more competent, responsive, sympathetic government.

Indeed, the gaffes and cock-ups do not help the present government’s case – the slow and limited response to the floods, the never-ending revolving SOPs, the retreat of several high profile investors, and most recently, the many resignations from sporting figures, including international champions and prospective gold medallists.

Barisan Nasional, riding on its big election wins and restored support for Umno, which is itself is torn between hedging its bets on Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and his Bersatu allies or on popular Bossku Najib Razak, hopes to regain dominance or risk losing all vestiges of incumbency it has left.

With PH still struggling for footing and support for its “big tent” rallying call, – a reset in the form of an early general election, which Umno is pursuing, seems the logical choice, but we could end up in square one, or worse, with even more instability if the battle lines are not drawn clearly and firmly.

It seems less the political debate itself but the uncertainty and changing expectations that have led to the apathy and lethargy we now feel for our politics.

Political parties need to choose their allies well and not waver in their allegiances before and after elections. That, instead of passing the buck back to the rakyat every other week, would do more than anything to ensure a more stable, healthy political environment. TMI

Zahid, Najib must go to improve Umno’s image, says ex-CJ

PETALING JAYA: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Razak must step down as Umno president and Barisan Nasional (BN) adviser, respectively, if the party intends to shed the taint of corruption that has been linked to these two leaders, a former chief justice said.

In repeating similar calls made previously, Abdul Hamid Mohamad said if Umno and the coalition fail to address this matter, it could see the return of a Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in Johor.

It was reported that some 6% of the 2.5 million voters in Johor will comprise 18 to 20-year olds, following the implementation of Undi18.

Abdul Hamid Mohamad.

The opposition, Hamid said, will weaponise such words against Umno, and easily sway youths.

“Umno has no choice. It must do away with the image of being a corrupted party.

“It must ‘retire’ leaders who are involved or implicated in corruption. Najib and Zahid must step down,” he said in a statement.

Hamid added that when Mohamad Hasan became the party’s acting president in December 2018, BN won three by-elections in a row, namely the Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat, and the Semenyih (Selangor) and Rantau (Negeri Sembilan) state seats.

Mohamad took over the reins after Zahid went on garden leave, in an apparent attempt to stem the tide of Umno elected representatives leaving the party.

Hamid said, at the time, he felt relieved and hoped it was a sign of Umno’s recovery.

“However, six months later, Zahid was back in charge, and Najib was brought in as BN’s adviser in 2019.

“I saw this as a sign that Umno will not change. Whatever has happened since then proves this.”

Hamid said it appears as if Najib and Zahid were using Umno to free themselves of court charges, while the party’s Supreme Council members were going along with such plans.

Najib was convicted on seven counts of corruption in July 2020 and sentenced to 12 years’ jail as well as fined RM210 million. His first attempt to overturn the conviction at the Court of Appeal was dismissed, and he is now filing an appeal with the Federal Court.

Zahid has been ordered to enter his defence on all 47 of his corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering charges and is awaiting trial. FMT