The most expensive party election in Umno’s history

Posted by SM Maulana
Daim, however, does not want Abdullah to retire just yet. He needs Abdullah around until at least 2010 because it will take him two years to slowly bring back RM3 billion in cash. Yes, more than ten years ago, RM3 billion in RM500 and RM1,000 notes were smuggled out to Indonesia.

THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

Malaysia Today

24 hours is a long time in politics, what more 24 weeks leading to December 2008. And over the last 24 days there has been much realignment in Malaysian politics. But can Anwar Ibrahim change this equation even more by convincing 24 Members of Parliament from Sabah and Sarawak to cross over to Pakatan Rakyat? If he can then he needs only ten more or so from Umno to join Pakatan Rakyat so that he can form the new federal government.

This is no longer just about Anwar getting at least 30 government MPs to join the opposition ranks — which will then be transformed into the new government. There are also Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Daim Zainuddin prominently in the equation. And of course, not to be left out, is ‘First Lady’ in-waiting, Rosmah Mansor, who could most probably be Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s final nail in the coffin.

Yes, the direction and final outcome of Malaysian politics is subject to the moves of many political heavyweights. Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Daim Zainuddin, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Najib Tun Razak, Rosmah Mansor, Muhyiddin Yasin; they all have a bearing on what we are going to see come Christmas Day 2008. One person’s move changes the equation even further. And if everyone makes a move one can only guess what the final outcome will be.

To salvage the situation and checkmate Anwar, some people in Umno are talking to some people in PAS. Let us get one thing clear. Umno is not talking to PAS. Some people in Umno are talking to some people in PAS. And the ‘offer’ from these Umno people is simple. PAS leaves the opposition coalition and forms a new coalition with Umno. In states like Perak, PAS will form the government with Umno and not with PKR or DAP as its partner. PAS can become the Menteri Besar and Umno will support PAS in its effort to implement Islamic laws in the state.

PAS has of course rejected Umno’s ‘offer’, which was made on 9 March 2008. Officially the party is not interested and they wish to remain loyal to their Pakatan Rakyat partners, PKR and DAP. But there are some within PAS who are attracted by Umno’s offer to allow Islamic laws to be implemented — as opposed to PKR and DAP who are both bitterly opposed to the implementation of any Islamic laws.

That explains why, of late, some people in PAS have, again, been talking about the implementation of Islamic laws. They are encouraged by Umno’s ‘softening’ on the issue. These people are of course too young to remember that more than 30 years ago PAS was similarly tricked by Umno — and after almost three years they left Barisan Nasional when they realised that Umno was not sincere about Islam but only spoke about Islam to attract PAS into joining Barisan Nasional.

In the meantime, Anwar is going to court to get his September 1998 sacking as Deputy Prime Minister declared illegal and a violation of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. If he succeeds then Abdullah has to reinstate him as Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, by order of the court. But Malaysia already has a Deputy Prime Minister who goes by the name of Najib Tun Razak. Yes, but if Najib is forced to resign because of his wife’s implication in the Altantuya murder, and if it can be proven that his office is involved, then Najib is dead meat and there will be a vacancy for the post of Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. And Raja Petra Kamarudin’s sedition trial in October may be that playground to prove this — unless they get cold feet and either drop the charges or delay the trial until next year.

Daim, however, does not want Abdullah to retire just yet. He needs Abdullah around until at least 2010 because it will take him two years to slowly bring back RM3 billion in cash. Yes, more than ten years ago, RM3 billion in RM500 and RM1,000 notes were smuggled out to Indonesia. When Tun Dr Mahathir found out he discontinued the usage of RM500 and RM1,000 notes. So the money is now stuck. The notes can, of course, be brought back, but they can’t be used in the open market. Instead, you have to send them to Bank Negara to be changed into smaller notes.

And this is where the problem lies. How to bring back RM3 billion in RM500 and RM1,000 notes unless you do it over two years and unless the Finance Minister cum Prime Minister gives his permission for Bank Negara to accept them? So Daim has to ensure that the Finance Minister cum Prime Minister stays on at least until 2010 when the entire RM3 billion can be safely brought back and sent to Bank Negara for conversion into smaller notes. And to ensure that the Finance Minister cum Prime Minister is not kicked out of office, Daim is prepared to spend half the amount to defeat the challengers like Tengku Razaleigh and Muhyiddin.

The 2008 Umno party election is going to be the most expensive election in Umno’s history. But then much is at stake, both in terms of power and money. So the cost is necessary. Dr Mahathir knows, of course, what Daim is up to and he wants Abdullah out now to thwart Daim’s move. And he wants Najib to challenge Abdullah but Najib has made a deal with Abdullah — and with the Altantuya murder trial still proceeding very slowly Najib can’t afford to renege on his deal in case ‘new evidence’ surfaces in the course of the trial.

Tengku Razaleigh is not to be discounted just yet either. Over the last few months he has been making his rounds to the Umno branches and he appears to be gaining support. While Daim backs Abdullah, Dr Mahathir pressures Najib to bring Abdullah down, Abdullah checks Najib, Anwar makes a bid to get back his Deputy Prime Minister’s job and probably becomes the next Prime Minister as well, Muhyiddin ding-dongs between both sides, and much more, Tengku Razaleigh is slowly and successfully convincing the Umno grass-root that he is the White Knight who will save Umno from itself.

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Power transfer deal leaves Mahathir out in the cold

Last week’s deal between Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi and his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak on an orderly handover of power brings political stability to the country – but has left former Umno stalwart Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad out in the cold.

Abdullah announced on Friday that he and Najib had agreed that he would hand over power to his deputy at the “right time”, thus heading off any need for Najib to challenge him. But Abdullah clarified yesterday that no time frame had been set and that he would stand for the Umno presidency in December.

Sources say, however, that he had told senior party leaders this month that he would leave in mid-2010, giving Najib at least three years as prime minister before facing the voters in 2013.

Dr Mahathir reacted angrily to the deal, describing it as a disaster for the United Malays National Organisation, in a coalition already facing a bleak future after its heavy losses in the March 8 general election. “This is a bad deal…I think Najib will soon kiss the premiership goodbye,” he said on Friday night. “(Abdullah continuing beyond December) will be the downfall of Umno.”

He called Najib a “coward” for not challenging Abdullah.

Dr Mahathir had wanted Najib, a protégé he began nurturing in 1976, to either force Abdullah to quit earlier, or defeat him at the December party elections. Traditionally, the Umno president has always been the prime minister and leader of the 14-party Barisan Nasional coalition.

“Dr Mahathir is the big loser in this political deal between Abdullah and Najib because his protégé Najib abandoned him at the most crucial moment,” said political analyst James Wong. “With Najib gone, Dr Mahathir has no credible candidate left to field against Abdullah.”

Dr Mahathir has also isolated himself from Umno by resigning from the party last month in an apparently failed bid to whip up anti-Abdullah sentiment. He urged other Umno members to resign too, but fewer than a dozen heeded his call.

Political analysts said the handover deal would add stability to national politics. “It is an excellent face-saving formula for both Abdullah and Najib,” said Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, professor of Malay civilisation at the National University of Malaysia.

The deal was struck after Najib, in a speech in London on Wednesday, swore on the honour of his revered father – Malaysia’s second prime minister Abdul Razak, who died in 1976 – that he would never challenge Abdullah. “My father helped to build the party, I don’t want to see it destroyed,” Najib said.

Abdullah reciprocated within 24 hours, saying he too did not want the party ripped apart by a major factional fight – and revealed that the pair had struck a deal early this month for an uncontested handover.

Settling the Umno succession question, however, does not end Abdullah’s woes – especially with the Opposition’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim stirring up public anger against him for suddenly raising petrol prices by 41 per cent this month. — South China Morning Post
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To cross or not to cross the river?

At this moment, Umno Vice-President Muhyiddin Yassin is probably having mixed feelings. In London, Najib Razak said he would remain as the party’s deputy president, while in Kuala Lumpur, the Umno President Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he will pass the baton to Najib when the time comes.

No.1 has chosen No.2 and No.2 has chosen No.1 as well. Both of them will proceed with their journeys hand-in-hand. What should No.3 do then?

Muhyiddin Yassin used to be considered Abdullah’s man. When Abdullah received the baton from former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he was initially slotted as the popular candidate for the post of the deputy prime minister. However, Najib had the higher position and better qualifications in the party at that time, and with Mahathir as his patron, Abdullah eventually chose Najib. Muhyiddin Yassin, therefore, lost his chance.

The 8 March general election results have shaken Abdullah’s position and Umno’s internal power structure has changed as well. The leader with a poor showing in the election will naturally be strongly opposed and anyone who can lead the force will have the opportunity to replace him.

Najib kept a low profile and decided to stay as Abdullah’s deputy. Meanwhile, Gua Musang Umno Division Chief, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, made an announcement that he is making a bid for the party’s highest position. I’m afraid, however, that he is a bit too old for the post. Thus, Muhyiddin Yassin is well placed to challenge the post. In fact, not many Umno leaders have grass-root power with considerable ability and, at the same time, a decent image. Muhyiddin Yassin could be considered as one of them.

Challenging Abdullah and Najib would be a great uncertainty. Umno’s power is concentrated in the hands of the president. Together with the help of the deputy president, it would not be easy to seize power. However, Muhyiddin Yassin would not have any other opportunity if he does not strike now. When Najib takes over as the new prime minister, he will have his own candidate for his successor and the candidate may not necessarily be Muhyiddin Yassin. Even if Najib chooses Muhyiddin Yassin as his deputy, there is no guarantee he would be the successor as he is six years older than Najib.

As Shakespeare said: “To be or not to be, that is the question!” I’m not sure whether Muhyiddin Yassin has read The Life and Death of Julius Caesar written by Shakespeare.

Caesar was hostile to the Roman Senate. In order to cut his power, the Senate called him back when he was out with his army. Caesar and his army came to the border of Rome – Rubicon. According to the Roman law, all commanders are not allowed to cross the river with army. Otherwise, it would be tantamount to a declaration of war on Rome itself.

Caesar paced up and down along the riverbank and eventually made a decision. He said: “To cross the river, it would be the human tragedy. Not to cross the river, it would be my own destruction.” He therefore chose to cross the river with his army and his move scared away his political opponents and the Senate. This in fact settled Caesar’s position.

To cross or not to cross the river, it would be the greatest challenge for Muhyiddin Yassin. (By TAY TIAN YAN, Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE – Sin Chew Daily)

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