Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Permatang Pauh: Badawi Must Be Accountable

As far as UMNO is concerned, August 26th, 2008 is a day that will live in infamy. It marks Anwar ibrahim’s return to Parliament. The sodomist will make life really difficult for UMNO from here on end.

But More importantly August 26tth marks UMNO’s humiliating defeat in a Malay majority constituency barely four months after it suffered debilitating losses in the 12th General Elections on March 8th.

Of course UMNO’s defeat in Permatang Pauh is expected. After all UMNO acknowledged that it went into the by-election as the underdog. Permatang Pauh is the strong hold of Anwar and his wife for the past 26 years. But the thumping victory which the people of Permatang Pauh delivered to Anwar raises serious questions for UMNO.

The NST’s Zubaidah Abu Bakar wrote that UMNO and will have to go back to the drawing board and do a post-mortem on what went wrong. Was it strategy? Was it the Machinery?. Other analysts have said that the defeat of UMNO was caused by the overkill of the sodomy issue and the polemics of swearing by the Quran.

From all this chatter, one can draw a simple conclusion: UMNO IS STILL MISSING THE POINT.

This defeat is not about the sodomy allegation. It’s about UMNO being told to bugger off in the Malay heartland. It’s a fair bit about Anwar yes, but looking at the bigger picture, it is about the people’s outright rejection of UMNO. There must be a reason why even UMNO members voted against the party (The number of votes for UMNO were less than the number of UMNO members who are voters in Permatang Pauh).

Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Permatang Pauh is a Malay majority constituency which has rejected the predominant Malay Party UMNO.

  1. The UMNO state liaison chief of Penang is Abdullah Badawi. Hence the Malays have rejected the Abdullah Badawi led UMNO in Penang.

  1. Penang is the home state of Abdullah Badawi, which he lost in a spectacular fashion on March 8th, making him the first ever Prime Minister, ‘without’ a home state. Permatang Pauh is the first by-election after March 8th and should serve as a barometer of whether the people think that the PM has got the message they tried to tell him at the 12th GE. The answer is a resounding NO. His so-called reforms have failed and people still reject his leadership.

  1. Pak Lah no longer has any credibility because with the loss of Permatang Pauh, he hasn’t lost Penang once, but twice in four months. He cannot even make headway in a Malay majority area, adjacent to Kepala Batas, where the demographics of the people are identical!

  1. Even though Najib led the charge in Permatang Pauh, the fact remains that it is Bedawi’s home state. The battle was always between a Prime Minister in waiting and a sitting Prime Minister. The Prime Minister in waiting has beaten the crap out of the sitting lame duck Prime Minister.

  1. By all accounts, the Prime Minister’s son in law did more harm than good by shooting his mouth off, claiming to want to bury Anwar and bringing a whole entourage of hooligans and tough guys with him down to Permatang Pauh. SIL made it so easy for people to decide that, yep, they still hate Abdullah and his family, and they still will vote the opposition, sodomist or not.

Pak Lah must take responsibility for the loss of Permatang Pauh and resign. What is he going to do? say that UMNO still got 10,000 votes and therefore “UMNO masih kuat??” Nobody bought that crap the first time (after the GE), and nobody will buy it now.

Even if the defeat is expected, the fact that it was by such a big majority really means that the people were quite decisive in not wanting UMNO. Do they not want UMNO because UMNO is a bad party? Or because UMNO is dominated by individuals who are perceived to be bad? I think Tengku Razaleigh said it well in his statement here that the people “have rejected our (UMNO’s) leadership”. (I only disagree that the Deputy should also be blamed.)

Several leaders of the Chinese and Indian community have said that while the Malay community may have voted on sentiment and on the Anwar factor, the non-malay community voted on the basis of practicality. They don’t necessarily like Anwar and the hooliganistic tendencies of the PKR, but they just hated Badawi and his family more. And to them UMNO is now the Party of Badawi and his family, so they will never vote BN as long as Bedawi remains at the helm of UMNO and BN. It's a simple as that.

As long as Abdullah Badawi remains the PM, The President of UMNo and the Barisan Nasional Chairman, the current government will grow weaker and weaker before imploding and collapsing altogether.

Abdullah Badawi must be accountable for the eroding fortunes of UMNO & BN. To use today’s parlance, UMNO’s got to “lose” Badawi, before Badawi causes UMNO to lose everything.

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