Is Najib politically finished?

August 13, 2016

The short answer is ‘far from it.’ This assessment is not about who is right or wrong…ultimately it boils down to three elements, political infrastructure, chain of command and party discipline. Whether Najib actually stole money is an ikan Merah (red herring) that allegation I have no doubt may very well sway a significant number of voters….but it’s impact is nominal and has probably been factored by the political planners in UMNO. Truth of the matter is votes cast in the cities don’t count for very much in the political score card, it’s doubtful that it can even cause a rift within UMNO.

The reality is BN has been haemorhaging votes in the city as far back as the mid 1990’s…and the rot started during the tail end of Mahathir’s administration just after Anwar’s first imprisonment – since then the BN political machinery has redrawn the electoral lines to enable them to set up a government even should they fail to garner the majority of votes in the cities in Malaysia.

Hence in my opinion, the real decider will be waged in the kampungs, especially the Northern districts of the rice belt starting from Kelantan, Kedah, Terrenganu et all all the way down to Matang, Perak. Same applies to the Southern states of Johor. The cities are toasted….but the same cannot be said about the kampungs.

Firstly, I do not see how Mahathir’s new Bersatu can possibly challenge UMNO. UMNO after all maintains discipline within it’s ranks thru a very ritualized system of ‘habuan’ (kickbacks) – it’s essentially a very complex system involving layer upon layer of beneficiaries that took nearly 60 or more years to evolve.

Bersatu doesn’t have the networking or linkages – they need to start building from scratch, that’s quite hard as they don’t have either a war chest or generous donors who can write them billion dollar cheques….so this idea Bersatu somehow being able to gazump UMNO is quite premature.

The second factor is chain of command – Both BN and UMNO have a highly organized chain of command that allows for fast mobilization, especially in the countrysides. The same cannot be said about Bersatu….all they can really hope for is to trigger a rift within UMNO and hope that many will defect or switch sides. But even if they do that…they still don’t have an effective chain of command. As it is Bersatu is in a very unnatural alliance with DAP, PKR and four other component parties – outwardly they may all appear united, but there is a lot of mistrust and bad blood between them that will make it quite impossible for them to respond as decisively as BN and UMNO.

Finally party discipline – UMNO whips are still able to maintain the monolithic discipline within the ranks. Granted there is certain schism, but this not a political animal that is not riven by plenty of scandals….I have no doubt the majority of UMNO members will hold together as UMNO despite it’s many faults remains the only means for them to benefit from the system – providing the rank and file continue to gain benefit…they will look the other way.

Finally and most worrisome is the malaise of apathy that is so prevalent in Malaysia. While most Malaysians realize the current system is rotten right down to the core…since they don’t believe it’s possible to effect change. Most don’t care.

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