By The Oracle
GOING by a series of unprecedented tumult and change that prevailed within the Malaysia’s ethnically-charged political scene over the past four years or so, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s ungraceful exit is imminent.
For truly discerning and independent observers of the nation’s politics, the bumbling premier’s scarcely hidden inability to cope with such sea change makes the exit as good as a foregone conclusion.
Support for Abdullah’s pathetically inconsistent and jumpy leadership, especially amongst the nation’s urban populace and sizeable middle class of all racial denominations, is fast waning.
The fake picture of normalcy in support for his administration, from within and without the dominant UMNO, merely hinges on the nation’s vast and far-reaching web of official and semi-official propaganda machinery, which is still at the premier’s beck and call, or at least, at the mercy of his coterie of youthful but ill-experienced and grossly isolated advisers.
In spite of that false picture of undivided mass support, the writing is very much inscribed on the wall. The nation’s second largest ethnic group, the dominantly mercantile Chinese community, has made it clear to keen and independent observers that all they wanted is a strong and decisive Malay leadership figure that can weather the prevailing global and national economic uncertainties.
Such clear message from the Malaysian Chinese community is something that could not be just be taken lightly. In real political terms, the two major Chinese-based partner in the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition, the Malaysia Chinese Association (MCA) and Gerakan – notwithstanding the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) – do not usually make their own decisions, especially on matters pertaining to the interests of the Chinese community.
Their decision are mainly dependent on the aspirations of the myriad but solidified web of Chinese ethnic associations and guilds.
In other words, the two Chinese-based parties within the ruling coalition and the DAP are mere political conduits for the jealously ethnic Chinese associations and guilds to express and implement the views and aspirations of the community in the ethnically-based Malaysian political fabric.
This has been proven many times over during the previous general as well as by-elections.
After more than four years, Abdullah’s leadership is thus generally seen by the Chinese community as “too incapable” of steering both the country’s economy out of its present abject uncertainties.
Official and semi-official spin doctoring aside, the Chinese community has been – for sometimes since the commencement of Abdullah’s premiership tenure – really feeling the pinch attributed to rampant inflationary pressures owing to failure by his administration to subsidize the rising price of fossil fuels.
As for support from the nation’s mostly ethnic Tamil-Hindu Indian community, an important ebb had been arrived at owing to Abdullah’s fumblings in facing the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) demands.
Since before and after the Nov. 25th Hindraf rally in Kuala Lumpur, evidences are forming up to prove that the extremely sensitive sectarian demands by the unregistered Tamil-Hindu organization are epitome of Abdullah’s much-lauded but scarcely implemented policy of openness seriously back-firing on his own political survivability.
A sizeable majority of the Tamil-Hindu community of Malaysia were descendents of indentured labourers who were brought into the country by the British colonialists during the turn of the 20th century to work the then mushrooming expatriate-owned rubber plantations.
Following the advent of synthetic rubber post-World War II, the greatly reduced world demand for natural rubber led to a slump in the nation’s rubber industry, which had in turn caused serious socio-economic ramifications on the ethnic Tamil community.
As rubber plantations of old were turned into housing developments, and even new townships and industrial centres, to cater to the country’s growing urbanization and industrialisation, denizens of the Tamil coolie lines in the plantations were uprooted and transplanted into squatter settlements of major cities, especially Kuala Lumpur, thus the prevailing social blights attributed to the disenfranchised minority.
Such insidious socio-economic phenomena attributed to the Malaysian Indian community have all along been dangerously simmering just below the surface of the nation’s oft-advocated but scarcely maintained image of stability.
What was popularly seen by the Malay majority as growing failure by the Abdullah administration to maintain and safeguard their inherent dominance vis-à-vis the nation’s multi-racial set-up, as guaranteed by the Federal Comstitution, are being seen by keen observers as the imminent final straw that is bound to break the proverbial camel’s back.
His controversy-ridden decision to introduce the more than 2,000 square km Iskandar Development Region (IDR) growth corridor in the southern part of Johor – a long-time bastion of his own UMNO ruling party – is being increasingly perceived by even his party stalwarts as an abject sell-out to neighbouring Singapore and the domestic Chinese mercantile community.
To add insult to injury, former deputy premier, Tun Musa Hitam – long been identified as Abdullah’s political idol – who acts as the IDR’s adviser, has even inflamed hatred amongst Malays from within and without UMNO by openly declaring that the growth corridor project shall exclude affirmative action policy that favours the Malays and other bumiputras (please refer to the series of seven postings on the IDR in this blogspot).
This together with many other inherent political weaknesses that an increasing number of UMNO stalwarts are attributing to Abdullah’s bumbling leadership are fast alienating him from the powerful grassroots.
With such negative scenario arrayed against Abdullah’s leadership of the nation, the only possible questions that remained of his administration are:
* How and when is his exit possible, in a not too distant future?
* If such happens, who, within UMNO, has the necessary political clout and dexterity to appease the current disparate but increasingly solidified “opposition regime”, while at the same time maintain loyalty of the three million or so members of the dominant and jealously grass root-based conservative Malay status quo political entity, and not to mention the unpredictable bureaucracy; to make the post-Abdullah transition a smooth and one-off affair?
Whatever is the answer, a smooth transition of power could not possibly be with maintaining UMNO’s dominance over the nation’s political landscape. A smooth transition can never be if all concerned adopt the grossly destructive attitude of burning the mosquito net to kill a single elusive mosquito.
Continuation of UMNO’s dominance is the necessary formula to maintain strong government, thus future stability. Whatever weaknesses and excesses attributed to the middle-aged party can possibly be corrected by intervention from a whole new sets of idealistic leaders whose main mission was to undertake serious and all-encompassing re-invention of the party.
We must, at all cost avoid the pitfalls of the September 2006 military coup de etat in Thailand, which toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. A new Thai constitutional amendement , which was drafted by a panel appointed by Bangkok’s military junta and was approved in an August 19 referendum, has unwittingly bogged the kingdom down in a mire of weak and unstable coalitions and frequent coups.
The latest constitutional charter tweaks the country’s voting system in favour of smaller parties. In other words, the aim of the new constitutional charter was to make it harder for any other dominant majority party like Thaksin’s already dissolved Thai Rath Thai Party (TRT) to emerge in the future.
Such move is ironic: the whole point of Thailand’s last democratic constitution, passed in 1997, was to free the kingdom from the cycle of weak and unstable coalitions, thus frequent military coups. The imminent danger is now that the constitutional charter will succeed too well and Thailand will be back to weak governments.