April 18, 2013
GE-13: Najib’s New Faces, Not Many Pretty Faces
Upon closer scrutiny, I find that women are not significantly represented in the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) list of candidates despite their growing prominence in the party and despite the BN’s leadership promising to have more women contesting the election.
Based on the list published by Utusan Malaysia today (April 17), there are just over 70 female candidates among BN’s 727 parliamentary and state nominees or less than 10 per cent.
As for the so-called new faces, I found out after scrutinising media reports that some are not new at all, but have been erroneously represented as one. For instance, Bernama identified the proposed Kuala Terengganu parliamentary candidate, Mohd Zubir Embong, as a new face when in fact he had been an MP before. He won the same seat in 1986 but lost it to Semangat 46 in 1990.
In the April 8 post entitled “BN lwn Pembangkang: Jarak Makin Dekat” I wrote, among other things, that “BN tidak ada pilihan melainkan bertindak tegas dan pantas meletakkan lebih banyak calon muda, wanita dan teknokrat yang berwibawa, bersih, telus dan berwawasan.”
In my Other Thots column in the April 16-30 issue of the Malaysian Business magazine, I said the BN could not consider itself regenerating if it fails to nominate at least 40 per cent new faces comprising young people, women and professionals.
The Star online reported that the BN is fielding new faces for a third of the 222 parliamentary seats and almost half the 505 state constituencies in the general election.
Although the Pakatan Rakyat parties had stolen the thunder from the BN by putting up young candidates as early as the 2004 GE, the catching-up game by the BN is applauded. Whether in BN or PR, the process of leadership regeneration is welcomed.
Dubbing his younger team “Barisan Nasional’s Transformation Team”, BN Chairman Najib said the line-up could meet the rakyat’s expectations and (if elected) could deliver the coalition’s manifesto pledges.
Although these new faces are young and untested, Najib said 91 per cent of them have at least diploma-level qualification and among them are lawyers, medical doctors, ulama, university professors and administrative and diplomatic officers.
Some old faces are back
However, while dropping a handful of senior MPs and state assemblymen, including ministers, former ministers and mentris besar — a few at their own requests — he also brought back or promoted several older members, notably Felda chairman and former Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohd Isa Samad.
The move to allow former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nor Mohamed Yackop to retire is perhaps one of Najib’s bravest. But it is clear that Najib has also become the victim of the wily moves and internal bickering in the BN component parties. The exclusion by the MCA of its hugely popular ex-president and Pandan MP Ong Tee Keat is a case in point.
Najib also appears to have some problems with naming UMNO candidates, especially for the state seats, in the states where the Rulers are particular about the choice of candidates and want a say in the choice of mentris besar.
While the fresh faces are welcomed, there is the downside to naming too many highly qualified and, conversely, highly paid, candidates from the private and quasi-government sectors.
Unless these candidates, upon being elected, are willing to live modestly on a government salary and perks, there is a danger that, instead of serving the rakyat, they would be serving themselves to government projects and appointments to the boards of government companies and agencies. This won’t do!
If Najib gets the big victory he is wishing for — which many observers, including the pro-BN ones say is not very likely — he has to act decisively against corruption and abuse of power, and keep his wakil rakyat on a short leash.
Najib has also fallen victim to the prolonged talk about the GE. It alerted the opposition and kept them on their toes.
Although the mainstream media has for months been dishing out stories of quarrels and disagreements among the PR component parties, the reality is they have checkmated the BN in the choice and positioning of candidates.
Many key BN candidates are facing strong and determined opponents. Also the BN parties are more prone to rebellion over the choice of candidates than their PR rivals — a point that has not missed Najib’s attention when he called for total acceptance, sacrifice and unity.
Whatever the case may be, the rule of the thumb is, the party-biased electors have already made up their minds. For good or evil, come rain or shine, they will vote their parties. The linchpins are the fence sitters and the first-time electors, the majority of who are young and urban-based. Their votes can go either way. — kadirjasin.blogspot.com