– Ranjit Singh
The Malaysian Insider
October 19, 2013
The year 2013 will go down in the annals of Malaysian history for two important dates. First, May 5, when the Opposition won the popular vote in the 13th General Election, and second, October 19, when the second echelon of power in Umno will be decided.
While May 5 saw the incumbents retain power, October 19 will decide if they have enough firepower to ensure that they hold on to the power in the general election due in 2018.
The very fact that the candidates vying for the vice-presidents’ posts were not allowed to debate was a real missed opportunity for Umno members to evaluate the calibre of their future leaders.
Prime Minister Datuk Najib Razak’s seismic shift from 1Malaysia to the right, in a move seen by many as “playing to the gallery”, has actually undone all the ambitious programmes under his transformation programme and has sowed seeds of anger and distrust among the non-Malays.
The announcements of the Bumiputera Empowerment Plan on September 14, 2013 and the backlash against the Chinese after GE13 clearly showed that his position as a PM for all races is questionable.
The time to implement populist measures is over. The announcement that Putrajaya might not implement GST on October 25 is inviting further trouble. Fitch has clearly cautioned further downgrades if adequate fiscal reforms were not taken.
Projected revenue of RM208 billion for 2013 for the government will not be adequate and if there are further downgrades; cost of borrowing will rise and that will worsen the government’s economic management. As in GE13, there was much hype, but the incumbents retained power.
The same may apply to the Umno veep elections. However, the possibility of leaders that have been associated with corruption being elected is also there, and if this happens, Umno will suffer grave consequences.
Mukhriz Mahathir, given his tenure as International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, has the background of a leader in that position, but the members who decide have to be objective about the selection.
Shafie Apdal, with only 25 divisions from his home state of Sabah will have to fight it out tooth and nail but Hishammuddin Hussein, with his handling of the Lahad Datu fiasco, has left many questions unanswered.
Meanwhile Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is expected to be “at Home” as he has been seen as making all the tough calls that Najib has been evading or avoiding of late.
Based on Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s win, Umno seem to be a forgiving lot and the possibility of Isa Samad emerging as a winner cannot be discounted.
But I am glad that the election would be over soon, so we can look forward to next Friday, where decisions closest to our hearts, or rather, pockets, will be made. – October 19, 2013.