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Feb 1, 2008

The umno house is divided

By Din Merican

February 1, 2008

It is an open secret that the UMNO House is divided since the incumbent President Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi took over from his predecessor, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 2003. A house divided cannot stand, or at least be expected to manage a bigger abode, the Barisan Nasional and lead our country through trying times ahead.

With UMNO under his “control”, Badawi led the Barisan Nasional and won a resounding mandate from Malaysians in 2004 General Elections. He hopes to win a second term as Prime Minister in the soon-to-be held elections in mid-March 2008. By his own admission, he said that he would not be able to repeat his 2004 electoral success.

In the context of his present tiff with his former boss, we can understand why. All the elements seem to conspire against him— economic slowdown, rampant corruption, inflation, racial tension, public safety, and religious obscurantism.

The idea of Badawi becoming the Prime Minister for yet another 5 years, after failing to make any impact on the national scene over the last four years due to his weak leadership and incompetent administration, is raising serious concerns not only for the rakyat and foreign investors, but also his predecessor, the Tun, who is seeing his legacy and achievements systematically destroyed.

Initially, Badawi stopped all mega projects of the previous administration, but throwing all prudence to the wind, he is now launching ambitious schemes of his own with corridors and high risk real estate development with the help of his cronies and political allies.

Was there some agreement between Tun Dr. Mahathir and our Imam Hadhari that the latter would be a one term Prime Minister after which Najib Tun Razak would take over? Yes, said the former Prime Minister. The New Straits Times (February 1, 2008) quoted him as saying: “Even if I said there was a gentleman’s agreement I cannot prove it. But it was my thinking since he (Abdullah) was older than Najib, he should be the PM for a term and then Najib should take over”. Badawi’s response was an emphatic No. “There was no gentleman’s agreement…everyone is entitled to his opinion”. As outsiders, we can never now what actually happened between the two UMNO leaders.

Only Najib who enjoys the support of the Tun may have some knowledge of what had happended. But he is, as usual, distancing himself from “the parties concerned”. He said, “…I am committed to supporting (the Prime Minister) and remaining loyal to him”. Do you believe him? As far as I know, Najib is a very ambitious man who treats the premiership as his divine right. Maybe,Tengku Razaleigh and Tun Mahathir know him better.

My own guess is that Badawi who spent many years as Foreign Minister– and being a yes man and loyal to his boss—plotting his political career would have agreed to anything as long as he became Prime Minister. Remember that he was taking copious notes when he was learning his job during the transition (between June 2002-October, 2003). But now that he has tasted the power and perks of the job (including the opportunity to go globe trotting in his specially fitted Airbus Executive jet), he must have had a change of heart. For him, the Prime Minister’s job is an easy one; just do nothing and act regal. He has not the foggiest idea about leadership; his work ethics is below par; and his time management leaves much to be desired.

Our country suffers when the leader is weak, unfocused and indecisive. Worse still, UMNO is very fractious today. The party is split at least 3 ways between Mahathir loyalists, Badawi supporters and the more ambitious faction led by Najib Tun Razak. It is a classic triad situation and in such a situation, it is always two against one. Will it be Mahathir-Najib versus Badawi, or Badawi-Najib versus Mahathir? Certainly Khairy Jamaluddin will have a role to play in helping his father-in-law to survive this latest Mahathirian onslaught.

Interesting yet uncertain times ahead, but infighting is not helpful for the country. A divided UMNO cannot the Barisan Nasional coalition together. The time has come for Malaysians to seriously vote the alternative coalition in the 12th General Elections.


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