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Allowing Tun Dr Mahathir, Utusan and Perkasa, other instantly-formed racist groups a free hand to set agenda

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By Liew Chin Tong

The columnist with former Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak is writing Barisan Nasional’s political obituary by focusing on micro electoral targets while refusing to confront macro policy matters.

The window to call election before the month of Ramadan has come and goes. The next possible window, which starts from September, is small and very much being constrained by Hari Raya Haji celebration on 26 October, Deepavali festival on 14 November and the subsequent annual year-end floods.

Having sounded the war drums for at least two years since 2010 and making it very loud since late last year, Najib was visibly scared to pull the trigger at last, to the chagrin of many UMNO leaders who want to get over it and done with.

As Najib calibrates his perfect moments, which I believe have long gone and would never return again, the nation was left in a lurch with numerous policy paralyses, flip-flops, stalemates and inertias.

Najib’s obsession with personal legacy

Lately, we were told that a consolidated intelligence report shown that Barisan Nasional has 80 seats in the bag while close to winning another 50 seats, giving it 130 seats or a majority of 18 seats. The police’s Special Branch, we were told, puts the figure at 118, which is a bare 6-seat majority. To form the federal government, 112 out of the lower house’s 222 seats are required.

The numbers have clearly spooked the ruling party, especially Najib’s inner circle. For the rest of UMNO, as long as Barisan Nasional remains in power, their high society lives go on.  but for Najib, a victory is not enough. He has set himself a high bar to jump – to win with a two-thirds majority or at least to win back the state of Selangor for Barisan Nasional, or preferably both.

He doesn’t want to be remembered as the worst-performing PM, a record held by his predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi who lost Barisan Nasional’s two-thirds majority in Parliament and gave away five states to Pakatan Rakyat.

It is hence amusing to see Najib talking about “14 – 0″ – that Barisan Nasional would win all 13 states plus the majority of Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Missing the tree for the rainforest

Najib is so obsessed with micro electoral targets to the extent of trying to keep “winnable” retirees such as Abdullah Badawi and former MCA Presidents Ong Ka Ting from retirement. He visits each and every one of the swing seats in an attempt to rub some of his perceived popularity to BN candidates there.

And all government resources are channeled to buy favours from voters of various “swing” segments of the population. But he is just seeing the trees and missing the beautiful Malaysian rainforest altogether.

The Malay middle ground will decide

Malaysia is a multiethnic nation. Any coalition that fails to take the ethnic centrist posture to convince sufficient number of non-Malay and non-Muslim voters would face defeat.

Allowing Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Utusan and Perkasa as well as other instantly-formed racist groups a free hand to set agenda and hold the government hostage to their right wing rhetoric will only alienate more voters, including moderate Malays.

Failure to deal with the long aspiration of Malaysians to see a more open, fairer and democratic society will dissipate middle class urban supports. The tear gas and water cannon at BERSIH 2.0 and BERSIH 3.0 are turning passive concerned citizens into frontline activists against Barisan Nasional.

Finally, it is clear in most of the opinion polls in the past three years that 60 percent of Malays are aware of how corrupt UMNO is, but only around 45 percent are ready to vote for Pakatan Rakyat. If only the mass media stop behaving like the Soviet-style propaganda machine.

There exists at least a 15 percent middle ground among the Malays that will either be pushed to Pakatan Rakyat if UMNO is seen as totally hopeless in reforming itself or be pulled by Pakatan Rakyat if it comes up with credible alternatives.

Those are fundamental issues determining the next election but Najib’s obsession for his personal legacy somehow misses them completely. -The Rocket