Was Kuala Terengganu the beginning of the end for UMNO? The merchants of doom think so.Unless UMNO can salvage its broken image within the next four years, biting the dust, might not be far-fetched.It is not the BN (Barisan National) that is the problem, it is UMNO.
The other components in the BN were accidental victims and paid for the sins of UMNO in the last elections.The Chinese and Indian components, MCA, MIC and Gerakan were the early casualties of the people's anger.Gerakan was decimated and lost the state of Penang to opposition DAP.All in all, the BN lost five states to the rickety oppositions coalition.UMNO would have lost the central government if not for Sabah and Sarawak, which were untouched by the people's fury.With such disastrous results one would have thought the party would have changed direction and take immediate action to repair its badly broken image.
After less than a year from its worst showing in an elections, UMNO lost two by-elections to the oppositions coalition.The results showed a marked increase in the popularity of the oppositions.Permatang Pauh was a foregone conclusion.It was an uphill battle for UMNO against the charismatic and popular Anwar Ibrahim in his home turf.The loss of Permatang Pauh was expected.
Kuala Terengganu was different, there were no giant contender to reckon with, UMNO has the edge to win this one but they screwed it up big time.Firstly, the choice of candidate was wrong. The PM chose someone who was 'his man' reputedly arrogant, aloof and disconnected with the ground. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad and other bloggers who are familiar with UMNO politics had sent warning signals to PM Badawi that his choice of candidate may not be the best one around.Of course, as PM he has the prerogative to choose whoever he likes.
Sometimes, when your party popularity is at its lowest ebb fielding the right candidate can turn the table in your favour.He chose to ignore it.
UMNO have lost its lustre and ceased to capture the imagination of the masses.The leaders have ran out of ideas and unable to respond to the call for change.The have misconceived idea that the Malays owe them a living and must vote for them.
The Malays in the street know their lives will not make drastic change for the better if they continue to vote for UMNO.Keeping these leaders in office would mean continuation of a corrupt regime and a nation run by the oligarchy who treated the country as their own private fiefdom.They are so used to swimming in political patronage or pork-barrel politics that the only politics they knew is money, offering money, projects and other sweeteners to the people during elections time and would repeat the same things in every elections.In Sabah, where money politics first started, the offer could be anything from cash handouts to zinc roofing materials, water tanks and sealing of roads to the kampongs.
This is a government of political patronage and crony capitalism.Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government.Almost all big government projects were given out on this basis and with ridiculously high inflated price to take care of the wang pelinciran (lubricating money).Those who court politicians are the most likely to get such projects even if there were no merits to award such huge project to them or their companies. These hangers-on are prepared to travel the length and breadth of the globe to be close to their favorite politicians.That's way we have abandoned projects,cracked and leaky buildings,cracked highways and other shames that should not have occurred if there were probity and accountability in the first place.
Kuala Terengganu should be the loudest wake-up call for UMNO.If it can lose so miserably in a predominantly Malay areas what chance has it and the BN got in those areas in Sabah and Sarawak in the next general elections.If the Malays in 'Tanah Melayu' have rejected them for PAS and Pakatan Rakyat, the road to recovery may be slow and painful, unless they can come up with a quick-fix formula to bring the Malays back to the fold or a formula to break up the Pakatan coalition before the next general elections.Still, some 30,000 voted for them which means all is not lost yet.
The next likely by-election would be Pensiangan in Sabah where BN/PBRS candidate Joseph Kurup was disqualified by the court for dubious means of depriving other candidates from contesting the elections.He was returned unopposed.The BN chance of winning the by-election would be dependent on the choice of candidate and Kurup should not be one of them.He has lost credibility with the people of Pensiangan hence the obviously dubious means used to stand unopposed.Putting Kurup would literally be bidding goodbye to the seat and give the opposition one more seat nearer to Putrajaya.There is 50/50 chance BN might lose the seat even with another candidate but at least it has a fighting chance. With Kurup the defeat would be sure.
The Chief Minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud took exception to saying that Kuala Terengganu is a harbinger to the fall of his government in the state elections in Sarawak due in 2011.What happened in KT will certainly have a bearing in Sarawak, mainly in predominantly Dayak and Chinese areas. Whether Pakatan can take over the state government is too early to say, but they would certainly make some inroads into state politics if they can stay intact until then.
We have to wait until after March after Abdullah hands over the helm to Najib to see whether there would be change of direction and repentance by UMNO leaders to regain the trust and confidence of the masses.But if pigs might fly than the harbinger of doom may come to haunt them down the 'Road to Perdition'
I would say it is still the best form of coalition government if they can clean up the corruptions, the arrogance,self-seeking attitude and the abominable gravy train they called the NEP.