What Najib fears most is revolt from his own base

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Another fact that allowed fascism to gain power over men was their blindness. A man cannot believe that he is about to be destroyed. The optimism of people standing on the edge of the grave is astounding.”

― Vasily Grossman, ‘Life and Fate’

COMMENT | The game is on, I guess. What is touted as the mother of all elections is upon us. With the dissolution of Parliament, Prime Minister Najib Razak has finally rolled the loaded dice. He has stacked the deck in his favour and his minions are overseeing the rigged game. But does Najib really fear a Malay tsunami?

The Umno grand poobah claimed that he did not believe that there would be a Malay tsunami because this would mean a rejection of Umno. This is a strange thing to say because it essentially also means that the Umno president believes that if more Malays voted, they would reject Umno.

This, of course, is conventional politics. Political hegemons the world over understand that large voter turnouts usually mean that the established order is under threat. It is a little different here in Malaysia because the established order is not under threat, merely a political operative struggling under the weight of numerous corruption scandals.

Why would more Malay voters reject Umno? More importantly, what is the opposition offering the Malay community which is radically different from what Umno is offering? Besides the usual pabulum that both sides make about race and religious relations in this country, about the only issue that the Malay opposition keeps harping about is that the Umno grand poobah is a kleptocrat.

In other words, it is not about a rejection of Umno but rather it is a rejection of Najib. After all, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Pakatan Harapan PM-designate only hooked up with the opposition after he failed to get the current Umno grand poobah to step down.

Umno says it is a champion of Malay rights, while Bersatu claims that Umno has betrayed Malay rights through the corruption of the Umno grand poobah. I have made this argument before, that if Umno was not a centre-right party and if most Malays did not want what Umno was offering, PAS would have made great inroads into the political mainstream of this country.

The fact that most Malays rejected the Islamism that PAS offered and were content with the control of the Umno state, should say something about the Weltanschauung of the Malay voting demographic. The fact that PAS became mainstream was not anything that Umno did but because of the opposition. Whether they remain mainstream remains to be seen.

While some would argue that this was more of a legacy issue than a corruption issue, the reality is that the corruption scandals of the current Umno grand poobah have become the major issue at this upcoming election. An Umno insider recently hissed that it was difficult to mount a successful defence for their great Bugis warrior because Najib was the face of the 1MDB scandal and even if people really did not understand the minutiae of it, they had an easy reference for the scandal in the form of the Umno grand poobah.

This is why the Umno state which usually could get away with most anything in the Malay community had to resort to such measures as creating an anti-fake news law – which essentially meant that you could not talk about the 1MDB issue - and extreme gerrymandering – which essentially meant that even if you did not choose Umno, Umno chose you...

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