The Kuala Terengganu P036 by-election could not have come at a more inopportune time for Barisan Nasional in general and UMNO, as well as Najib Razak in particular. As we all know, the Barisan Nasional is still reeling from the effects of the March 8 general election last year. The main coalition of UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and MIC have seen testing days after that general election with all parties going for each other's throat on issues close to their respective heart. Issues on Ketuanan Melayu; teaching of Maths and Science in the English language; marginalisation of the Malaysian citizen of Indian origin; distribution of the economics pie are but some of the issues which saw the BN main component parties shouting and screaming at each other with the obvious goal of championing each party's racial agenda and outlook.
To top it up, these main component parties also have internal issues to be settled. MCA saw a change of top leadership in an election which was more than a little uncivil and divisive resulting in its President and Deputy being elected from two different and opposing camps. As for MIC, it is as good as a dead horse. While Samy Vellu says he wants to re-brand MIC he forgets that re-branding MIC would most certainly involve his removal from the party as he has become synonymous with all that is wrong with MIC itself.
Most importantly is the internal wave of discontent which UMNO is going through from March 8 2008 until today. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been blamed for everything which has befallen UMNO so far. This blame culture and movement has been led by none other than its former President, Mahathir Mohammad. It has taken steam sometime in the middle of last year and at the end a power transmission timeline was agreed. That entails Abdullah relinquishing his Presidency in March this year to Najib Razak, the current Deputy President.
But that does not end there. As it is, there are now 3 persons eyeing the Deputy posts come March this year. The 3 VP posts are seeing a fight between 10 stalwarts. The Youth chief is also seeing a massive fights. In fact, UMNO is so full of infightings that it makes the Palestine conflicts rather tame in comparison. To add to all these, money politics have reared its ugly head and UMNO leadership is at a loss on how to solve these really dirty games.
If the Permatang Pauh by-election sounded the death knell for Abdullah, the P036 by-election is a sure test for Najib Razak's leadership. And it couldn't come at a worse time. The selection of Wan Ahmad Farid as UMNO's nominee for the election is not without significance. The fact that Wan Ahmad Farid - a known supporter of Abdullah in UMNO - is chosen as UMNO's nominee is widely seen as proof of Abdullah's influence in UMNO although Abdullah is supposedly on his way out. This is admitted even by Mahathir Mohammad who lamented that Wan Ahmad Farid is Abdullah's proxy and that he (Wan Ahmad Farid) is not the best man for the job.
Come what may, the obvious loser in all these would be none other than Najib Razak. Firstly, the nomination of Wan Ahmad Farid, a known Abdullah man, gives the impression that Najib Razak is powerless and not strong enough to stop Abdullah from still calling the shots even within 2 months from his retirement. That does not bode well for Najib and his supporters.
Secondly, win or lose, Najib would still lose. It is a lose-lose situation for him. If Wan Ahmad wins the election, the impression would be that his victory is caused by the "Abdullah factor". It would be Abdullah's great choice which wins the election. Not Najib's.
In the event of a loss, the world would come crumbling down on Najib. The blame would be on him. Allegations of sabotage would surely surface. However, the damndest conclusion in that event would be that the people of Kuala Terengganu, and Malaysia in general, has demonstrated that Najib's leadership is not welcome. The people do not want Najib as Malaysia's next Prime Minister. That would be the natural conclusion.
It must be remembered that Najib was entrusted to spearhead UMNO's and the BN's election campaign in Permatang Pauh. He failed miserably due mainly to his wrong approach, strategy and tactics. How could you go into someone's house and tell the owner of that house that his son is a sodomiser? The result of that is for all to see. Anwar won with a bigger majority. Najib (and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) left Permatang Pauh even before the official announcement of the result!
In the event of a BN loss, P036 would be seen as an indictment of Najib's inability and his perceived tainted past (and present). It would be concluded as an almost unequivocal non-endorsement by the people of his leadership style, his visions, his political posturing on a wide range of issues which are close to the people's heart nowadays.
It is therefore quite obvious, that come what may, Najib would be the biggest loser in P036. Whatever the result of this by-election might be, it is obvious that the UMNO infighting would continue to ravage the party. Both the Abdullah and Najib faction would claim victory in the event of a win for Wan Ahmad Farid. And both would blame each other in the event of a loss. At the wrong end of this argument would be Najib Razak.
On the side of the fence, a victory for Wan Ahmad Farid, would, on the face of it, indirectly sound a loud "NO" to hudud and PAS' seeming unwillingness to let go of that issue. In that event, Pakatan Rakyat would have some soul searching to make. The loose alliance between a motley crew of parties with different views and ideas which strike, among others, at the most basic of issues, namely, whether Malaysia should be a secular or Islamic state, would not, in the long run, work if such issue is not analysed deeply and an acceptable common ground is found and agreed upon.
Husam Musa's statement that PAS would implement hudud during his debate with Khairy Jamaluddin shows the emotional, rather than rational, side of Husam and PAS as a whole. Khairy was being clever and he was digging a huge hole in front of Husam when he unnecessarily asked Husam about hudud. Husam did not see that hole and loudly and proudly proclaimed that PAS would implement hudud to a thunderous applause. Husam won the day but in a single stroke Khairy has managed to find a bullet which the BN could use during the by-election. Hudud, a non-issue before that day, has become an issue suddenly. Husam fell into the hole like a led balloon!
If PAS wins, there will be conclusion made that the people, including the non-Muslims, may not be adverse to hudud. Again, Pakatan Rakyat would have some soul searching to make. And the Barisan Nasional too. Hudud laws, and its implementation, is not an easy subject and it touches the nerves of all and sundry, not only the Muslims and the Malays . It involves international perception, international finance and investments, non-Muslims and Muslims alike. It involves the very basic structure of Malaysia. It involves the basic premise of Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as its official religion. Contrary to all political posturing by the likes of Mahathir Mohammad, Abdullah and the present UMNO leadership, everybody knows that Malaysia is NOT an Islamic state.
PAS itself is in the middle of a leadership tug of war. It is replete with factions where the Hadi, Nik Aziz and Anwar factors provide endless supply of political entanglement. Hadi is the Islamic state chieftain. Nik Aziz heads the more rationale and pragmatist group and is known to be the sympathisers for Anwar's reformist agenda.
P036 is thus more than what it seems. It is not only about the Barisan Nasional against the Pakatan Rakyat. It is about the survival of political ideologies within component parties of these two. It is also about the fight within the component parties.
The voters in P036 should be so lucky to know that their one vote each may in more than one way decide the future of Malaysia. They should therefore all come out and exercise their right to vote with a clear conscience and unhurried in their choice.