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Friday, September 30, 2011

Nizar Jamaluddin and the future of Perak politics

Nizar Jamaluddin and the future of Perak politics

The statement by a politician that Barisan Nasional (BN) would retain power in Perak in the next general election is barely credible. The sentiment on the ground does not really favour the incumbents. According to political pundits, the next general election would see a keen contest in Perak between Pakatan Rakyat (PR) and BN and the outcome would see PR taking over the state government with a simple majority.

The loose Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition of the DAP, PKR and PAS won Perak in the 2008 political tsunami but fell from power during the infamous 2009 power grab by BN. Perak was under PR government for only 10 months until the BN power grab in February 2009. This political fiasco for PR still hounds not only those assemblymen who had to concede defeat in the Assembly but also the electorate in Perak.

The state of Perak has a Bumiputera population of 55.74 percent, Chinese 28.77 percent, Indians 12.15 percent and Others including Non-Citizen 3.44 percent. The electorate ratio is an approximate 6:3:1 respectively among the Bumiputera, Chinese and Indians. However, the racial compositions of electorate are not proportionately distributed between the urban and rural areas and between Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera majority constituents – a common gerrymander that colours almost all constituents in the country to favour the incumbent government.

The choice of PAS assemblyman as CM

In the 2008 general election Perak, DAP won 18 seats, PKR seven and PAS six. Even PKR and PAS combined (thirteen) did not exceed the total number of DAP seats. These three parties represent PR. Despite the DAP having the majority seats, it was a PAS legislator who was chosen to become the chief minister(CM) or menteri besar. The appointed CM came forward to become a very popular and capable leader. However, the PR government fell to Barisan Nasional after three of their representatives left the coalition to become independent and BN-friendly assemblymen. The people of Perak, apparently, have not fully forgotten the mystified ways PR government was ousted a year after holding power. For this reason, the next general election would see the joust between BN and PR a very close one where premonitory symptoms on the ground reveal that they do not really favour BN. There is an optimistic hint that PR would win back the state with a simple majority.

In a just concluded independent survey, it was found that 6 out 10 people in Perak still found it knotty to accept the present Perak state government and the rest are divided as who should govern Perak next. Nine out of ten people surveyed would want a stable government and would want the people to decide using the ballot box to choose their preferred government. According to them, the court should not have decided on matters relating to politics – it’s the people who should decide whom to choose as their leaders. 52 percent of the respondents across the board surveyed in Malay-majority areas vouched for PR for a change and 76 percent of the respondents across the board in the non-Malay majority areas would do the same. It appears that, the Chinese, Indians and Malays are still in favour of PR to win if an election is to be held anytime time before the middle of next year. This manifests that the people have not really forgotten the political debacle that happened in 2009 in Perak.

Split in UMNO

The survey also did not view MIC, PPP, MCA or Gerakan favourably. In all probability their candidates chosen to contest in the next general election would all lose to PR candidates. The hot contests would be the across-the-board Malay majority seats where the prospect is on the average 52-48 still in favour of PR. DAP candidates would make a great impact winning almost all of the seats they control now. The four lawmakers (two form PKR and two form DAP) who left the PR team would lose their deposit if they were to contest again. The people are still sore with them and for sure BN would not pick them as candidates to represent the coalition. The forecast is, this time around, all the fours seats currently held by them would be won by PR comes the next general election with or without the incumbents contesting. This would be the scenario in Perak if this survey is taken to reflect the people’s sentiment.

To add salt to BN injury, UMNO is in effect split in Perak as there are some within the party who are very ambitious and would want to be chosen as candidates for the next general election. It has been the talk among respondents that the state Umno Youth is unhappy with the incumbent CM. They also have the opinion that that the latter would be replaced after the next general election and would not contest a state seat. The lobby and tussle among those anxious candidates-to-be would affect UMNO’s chance of winning the state when the odds are already against them. There is no real initiative on UMNO on the ground now to go all out campaigning for BN as they are anxiously waiting for the right signals from party leaders that they would be chosen as candidates. Nonetheless a fine politician, the political calculation is that the incumbent CM of Perak would not be able to contain the people’s discontent for the BN government and this would be expressed by the electorate in the next general election. Even with a change in CM of the state the people’s perception is that PR could still make a comeback.

The bad omens for BN

The people still have the perception that the process of democracy has been mottled in Perak. They still have that subtle grudge in them against the BN “coup” that toppled the PR government in 2009. Added to this reason are some localised factors facing the state now such as the escalating cost of living, huge income gaps between the rich and the poor, unemployment among graduates and youth, lack of job opportunities, the influx of illegals, high crime rates, lack of development and flow of investors, poor health services and the lack of low-cost housings for the underprivileged. Ethnic marginalisation has made the deprived ones poorer. The majority of the poor are still poor and the state itself is described as still backward as compared with Selangor and Penang. They perceive corruption as endemic among those in power and those with authorities. The rural people and the urban poor feel that they have not benefited much since the last general election. These are all bad omens for the incumbent state government.

Liberal and generous praises for Nizar

Surprisingly, the broil and tussle between BN and PR after two PKR and one DAP assemblymen became independent lawmakers in Perak (February 2009) have yet to fade in the mind of the people. The incumbent CM who entered the scrimmage at the wrong time – a big sacrifice indeed on his part – has not really made any major impact in convincing the people to sturdily favour BN until today. And presently, no matter how well he is trying to play his role as the lawful CM for all in Perak, he has yet to fully win the hearts of the people. In the people’s court of opinion, the majority of the electorate have the perception that Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin should still be the rightful CM of Perak. The survey showed that Nizar is still a politician to be reckoned with. Their liberal and generous praises for Nizar were not unprecedented. Nizar was in fact a one-time popular CM.

The Perak shambles in (2009) have in effect sanguinely created a potential leader in the country by the name of Nizar. Nizar in fact has placed himself neatly on the national political altar as a popular leader among all races in the state. The debacle in Perak has indubitably put him in the national political limelight and this also augurs well for the nation. PAS has another capable leader for the nation to depend on.

Nizar is relatively young from among many other influential politicians in the country and he has the attributes of calmness and intelligence that could elevate him to become a fine leader. An engineer by training, he is endowed with intelligence and wisdom. His almost one-year stint as CM of Perak has endeared himself to most Perakians and Malaysians. Deemed as not power-crazy he is perceived by the people as a sincere politician who is willing to serve the people at all times. His strong religious background has made him a man of strong conviction and principle. He thus has endorsed himself in the hearts of the people as a future leader for all Malaysians. The prophecy in the mind of most Malaysians is that he could even become the prime minister of the country. We would then see a genuine and moderate PAS leader at the helm steering the country towards prosperity – a multi-racial and multi-religious society led by an accepted-by-all Muslim leader.

Seeking a clean leader to lead

Seemingly, the more Nizar was shoved around in the Perak turmoil the more popular he had become - short of saying that BN had successfully attributed to the creation of a potent leader for PAS who, before this exhausting chapter, was a simple and ordinary man in politics. Though bent on moderate religious values, and by virtue of becoming a PAS leader, his judicious and right approach to religion and politics and his persistent advocacy on justice and equality from the Islamic perspective has made PAS and Islam more acceptable to most non-Muslims.

Nizar’s political philosophy based on universal values such as justice for all and trustworthiness had won the hearts of Malaysians. To him, corrupted, nepotistic and scandal-tainted leaders have no place in Islamic politics. The people are now seeking for a “clean” leader to lead them. This naturally has added value to Nizar’s political credentials.

Religious in upbringing, a humble and happy family man, void of scandals involving corruption, nepotism and women, Nizar is the gentleman who has been slated to lead Perak once again and possibly the country one day. This is perception of most Perakians. Undeniably, his star is sparkling bright now and he has a future in Malaysian politics. Being a polyglot, unpretentious and unassuming, always approachable and being charismatic he is already a leader of choice among many Malaysians – young and old.

A poll by a local TV station just after the 2009 Perak “coup” indicated that 99 percent of the people who voted wanted a fresh election in the state of Perak. This was symptomatic enough that the people were fed up with the entire chaos and power struggle going on in this state at the time. In the perception of the people, that entire incident in Perak has brought down the image of the Police, the Judiciary and the Constitution – and this was also perceived as a severe blow to Malaysian democracy.

The ultimate power is in the hands of the people

The people also feel that they had been cheated by their representatives. Those who left PKR and DAP to become BN-friendly legislators are now being looked down upon with utter disgust. As Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) once said, ‘You can cheat some people some of the time but not all the people at all times’. The people cannot be cheated again by these ingrates in the next general election. Malaysians, outwardly, have now come to wakefulness that they have been taken for a ride long enough and that they now have to ‘flex their muscles’ and decide convincingly who their indisputable leaders should be.

Malaysians in general are now more responsive to political events in the country. They realise that the ultimate power is in the hands of the people – the determinants in the political formula of the country. They cherish the law, constitution and the perpetuation of democracy in the country. They abhor the charade of legal bickering to seek legitimacy in politics. As a notable Perakian said just after the “coup”, “The Divine hand is now at work. The people cannot be easily manipulated this time around. The media harp can be one-sided in their reporting and the more they are obsessed with this kind of approach trying to cloud the people’s mind the more the people would show their displeasure for the government. This was proven in the few by-elections held after the incident where the Opposition triumphed over BN.”

Pushing BN to the edge

Of all those by-elections, the best indicator of rejection showed by the people for BN was in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat. From CM to MP, ousted Perak CM Nizar (PAS) won with a throbbing 2,789 majority against an UMNO/BN candidate. In the Bukit Selembau by-election in 2009 saw S. Manikumar winning with a thumping majority of 2403 votes against the MIC/BN candidate. This was clear sign that the people were not happy with BN and the Perak 2009 debacle. The people would ultimately push BN to the edge soon at the national level, perhaps to the extent of no return in Malaysian politics.

The perception that the Police and the Judiciary are being made use of by BN is a severe damage to BN’s reputation. The perception that racial politics is the game adhered to by UMNO and BN would continue to do more harm to their reputation. Apparently, the people now have set their mind to go for a change. Their perception is that there are many other leaders out there who are more competent to deliver and bring prosperity to the people.

Nizar is endowed with enhanced charisma and is well liked by the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Being suave, educated and persuasive he has won the sympathy of the people just within a short time in politics. He was at one point a reluctant politician, as he was not all out for the post of chief minister when seconded by the Pakatan winning team. He was selected among a few others within the Pakatan coalition to head the state by the Ruler. He hesitantly accepted the post but subsequently proved himself to become a capable leader in the process. His personality outshone others from the day he was appointed the CM of Perak after the March 8 general election in 2008.

Comparison with Zambry

His nemesis, the incumbent CM has tried hard to convince the people, but he lacks the charisma and he finds himself on the defensive most of the time. He has at times experienced “rejection” while approaching the people but has masticated it wisely as he understands the sentiment on the ground. The incumbent CM may be a good leader with a lot of patience and guts but getting into the fray at the wrong time has put himself in a difficult position. The ousted Nizar is still beguilingly successful and is seemingly more popular among most Perakians. Even if Nizar does not come back as the CM, Perak could still be wrested from BN with Nizar’s charm. This is the perception of the people. This is also what most political analysts are prophesising. The next general election would possibly see the clash of PR led by Nizar against the BN team to claim the political throne in Perak.

Thus, to claim that BN would be victorious in the next general election by BN stalwarts is a mere political strategy, as the true sentiments on the ground say otherwise. It is worthy to note here the ups and downs in politics. In politics, you may be ousted once but this does not mean that you could never bounce back into power, especially when the people could be convinced to accept you again depending on the credibility and the “learning curve” you have gone through.

Malaysia Chronicle

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