February 6, 2015
The Malaysian Insider on Political Leadership
Nearly two years after the last Malaysian General Elections (2013), both the ruling and opposition coalitions are imploding – one with internal leadership crises and the other with public quarrels over policies.
In the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), UMNO and MIC leaders past and present are tussling for influence and leadership, the MCA is largely irrelevant while Gerakan and PPP are absent.
On the other side, Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) DAP and PAS are crossing swords and PKR is just opposing everything with a street protest always a handy tool to keep it seen as championing a cause.
The big loser? Ordinary Malaysians. Never before has this country been so bereft of political talent, men and women of integrity, vision and empathy than today when it faces the twin crises of low commodity prices and currency.
The best example of this fact is UMNO. Neither the Najib camp nor the so-called Dr Mahathir-Daim camp inspire confidence or hope among most Malaysians. Both are stuck to courting a Malay heartland, leaving other Malaysians feeling disenfranchised in their own country.
Right now, the supporters of Prime Minister and UMNO President Datuk Seri Najib Razak are in the midst of a psy-war against his critics, some resorting to the old party playbook of sex allegations and financial scandals to all-out cyber attacks.
While Tun Daim Zainuddin has been quiet, his former boss, Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has turned up the ante by offering caustic comments about a leadership he no longer supports.
For Najib, it is his leadership at stake. For Dr Mahathir and his supporters, it is UMNO’s fate at the next general elections as the party and BN have collectively lost more votes in the last two federal polls.
If the trend continues, UMNO’s nightmare of losing political and economic power to its former number two, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim becoming PM, might come true. In short, that is the analysis of Najib’s critics who say his political and economic policies have exacerbated UMNO’s dwindling support.
The same is being played out in MIC, a party more concerned about itself than the shrinking Indian community it purportedly represents.But in a coalition of mainly racial silos, the MIC and the BN parties that represent everyone else except Malays now have even less clout than the second biggest BN party, PBB from Sarawak.
One would think that the PR pact would take advantage of the infighting within BN parties to move forward and attract even more support after their successful run in Election 2008 and 2013.
Instead, that success has been more of a bane than a boon for the three parties in PR. PAS were not on the same page with PKR on the Selangor state government leadership change last year.
Both PKR and DAP are at odds with PAS over its insistence to introduce Islamic criminal laws, or hudud, in Kelantan. And now PAS has opened up another front – quibbling about DAP’s local government election plans.
Their presidential leadership council remains only in name as they have not met since the Selangor impasse over removing Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Menteri Besar last year.
Where does that leave Malaysians who face a year where purchasing power will be severely curtailed by a weak ringgit and the imposition of a consumption tax that will affect a wider pool of people than the more than one million registered taxpayers?
Where does that leave Malaysians facing a time when race and religion is taking over the public space for debate and discussions instead of issues of rule of law and good governance?
Where is the leadership and hope for Malaysians in the next few years to focus as a nation in a souring economy when its politicians are more interested in keeping their jobs and influence?
And in the short term, can Najib avoid the fate of his predecessor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who left office after incessant internal criticisms? And can PR escape the fate of its predecessor, Barisan Alternatif, that self-destructed over hudud?
The real question is, are there leaders out there who think more about Malaysia than just their time in office?