Friday, February 29, 2008

Is there a general election on?

IT SEEMS to me that the 12 general election may see more excitement than one can bargain for. It seems that every single contestant, especially incumbents, are firmly camped in their constituency, making sure they are seen and heard by all and sundry.

Only those with confidence in their performance in the last four years or so dare to venture out to help their fellow party candidates. Either that, or that they are tasked with covering as much ground as possible to lend moral support to their colleagues, especially if they are contesting for the first time.

No one can take victorty for granted. In politics, that's the first lesson that must be embedded in the minds of wannabe Wakil Rakyat or YB (Yang Berhormat). Once you assume that victory is yours, you'll be taught a simple lesson that you are not ever likely going to forget.

I caught up with a couple of 'bekas bakal calon' or individuals who seemed cerrtain of being nominated by their parties only to be told later that they have been replaced by someone else. They seemed not so disappointed after seing the action, or lack of it for that matter, on the ground.

One of them said that he views his position as 'bekas bakal calon' as a blessing. "If I had been nominated by the party contest, I would have a really tough fight on my hands. And I'm not sure I can cope with that."

Scary isn't it? So then, what is really happening on the ground? Is this general election going to be bruising contest for some, resulting in exits which could spell the end of their political career?

I don't really know. I hear stories, and feel some lack of urgency in a number of places. In fact, a ride through some places would give beg the question - is there really an election going on? Where are the flags, fliers, buntings, party posters and house-to-house campaigns?

I tried to catch some ceramahs in the last couple of days. But the service centres I went to weren't able to give accurate information as to where their candidates were. I left wondering what's going on here...

Well, I suppose the weekend will definitely be more productive where ceramahs are concerned. Maybe by then the posters would have been put up and voters would know who the contestants are. We'll have to wait and see.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Everyone ask - will BN keep 2/3 majority?

THAT the Barisan Nasional will be returned to power seems to be a foregone conclusion. It's a given. What everyone wants to know is whether the BN can command at least a two-third control of Parliament, a yardstick that has often been used to measure the ruling coalition's might and support.

BN party stalwarts are confident that getting a two-third majority is not a problem, a forecast that detractors say the ruling coalition should not take for granted. It's not easy to reduce the two-third majority of the BN, and even more so in displacing them from the seat of power.

I expect to see more Opposition faces in the Dewan Rakyat in the new Parliament. There could be new giantkillers too from among both sides of the fence. I won't be surprised if some big names will have this general election as their last battleground in the national political landscape.

The internal squabble within the contesting parties will also have a bearing on the outcome in some constituencies. The lobby for seats in some places have resulted in considerable fallouts, with a number of grassroot leaders adamant that they will close ops room and lend a hand in other constituencies.

This cannot be looked upon as a trivial matter. If the grassroot party machinery choose to close shop, the candidates will find it tough going to swing votes in their favour. We will see if the squabble in Umno Perlis will have any negative impact on results come March 8.

Somehow, the manner in which candidates were picked, dropped and picked again, besides last minute replacement before nomination on Feb 24, have fuelled speculation that some things are not as smooth as they should be for the BN this time around.

The Opposition, too, have its share of wheeling and dealing, complete with U turns and last minute swaps. The BN's size and machinery may be able to carry the slack arising out of these last minute changes, but the same cannot be said of the Opposition.

BN campaigners have been going around telling voters to vote for the party and not give too much consideration to individual candidates. Urban voters, who have better access to information and have different set of priorities, may not necessarily fall for this kind of plea.

To many of them, it's not just a matter of choosing the right party, but rather of picking the candidate who have their welfare at heart. I also suspect that they may pick the Opposition fellow more out of dislike for the BN rather than a firm believe in what the former can do and deliver.

It's quite similar to the feelings of many football fans in the English Premier League - they'll root for the other team as long as they beat the hell out of Man Utd! For example, Arsenal fans will cheer Chelsea (an arch rival) as long as as Chelsea can whip Man Utd. By the same token, Liverpool fans will rally behind Everton as long as Everton can bring Man Utd down a peg or two.

The BN is confident of retaining all the State Assemblies it now controls, and proclaim loudly that Kelantan will also be theirs come March 8. But privately, quite a number of BN leaders are wary of the contests in Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis. This is the Malay hinterland. Failure or success here can have a telling effect right across the board.

For BN Chairman and Umno President, Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, this is the second time he's leading the charge for the coalition. Pak Lah knows he can't get the same kind of support he was getting in '04. That much he had conceded publicly in recent weeks.

In 12 days time we'll know how much of a reduction this will be, and what kind of impact it'll have on the national administration.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What changes will we, voters, bring in '08?

IN a day or two, we'll know when we'll be called upon to cast our votes. After the PM's short announcement on national television yesterday, we now wait for the Election Commission to fix the dates for Nomination and Polling. Everyone (almost) predict that it won't go beyong the first week of March.

THE EC people already know the dates but they'll go through the motion and make a show of finding suitable dates. It has always been like this, and it's not going to change. Expect the media to be called on short notice for a Press Conference any day now.

And some key members of the media would probably have got more than a hint of when that PC is going to be, and those in the PM's inner circle would even have been given a clear indication of when polling is to be held.

The prediction game doesn't end with the dissolution of Dewan Rakyat. The game now takes on a more personal nature - who's going to be dropped, who's going to contest etc. The lobbying which has been going on in the last few months will intensify in the coming week.

The BN chairman's grip on the coalition is never more strong than in the run-up to Nomination Day in as far as wanna-be candidates are concerned. There'll be casualties, that's for sure. There'll be new faces too, and some may have been told much earlier.

But what's in it for us the RAKYAT? Will we be voting for change or will we be rooting for continuity of the current regime? Are we happy with the present set of leaders? Do we vote them out? And who do we have as alternatives? This is also the time when rationale minds grapple with sentiments, and the mind does not necessarily always emerge victorious.

We'll be voting under a different environment. We've gone past the euphoria of 2004. Much has happened since then. Much has also not happened since then, and some promises have not been kept. By the ruling coalition as well as the Opposition, I might add.

We can all expect more promises, and like before, we all know that some of the promises can't be kept, for one reason or another. In fact, some promises are meant to serve as baits for votes, nothing more than that. It's up to us whether to believe them or not, really. Let's vote and have a say in our future.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Al-Fatihah for Mamat aka Nadzim Ahmad

DEATH makes us more alive, and realise just how short it is. It also shock us into realising just how fragile our stay on this earth can be. Mamat, who died early Tuesday morning, make those who knew and loved him, died a little as well.

In an odd way, he was very much his father's son. Pakcik Jamal, Mamat's dad, died leaving a widow and two small children. Mamat, not even 40, died leaving a wife and small daughters. When Hamdan called to inform me of Mamat's passing, it shocked me to the bone. Almost paralysing.

Death often comes with regret. Terkilan, as they say in Malay. My terkilan is that I had not seen him for a long time, and he me. He was a cousin of mine, from my mother's side. But for much of our lives, we were brothers and friends.

When his father died, I felt a sense of responsibility over him and his brother. I like to think that I did play considerable part in Mamat's well-being. But as you know, there's always the feeling that one could always do more.

My terkilan is also that I couldn't be with him on his last journey on earth, having gone overseas for a short trip. Being one of the family elders, I would have been called upon to manage the funeral and all that goes with it.

Then again, maybe it was His way to spare me the pain that I would have surely felt had I been present, and to see his ailing mother struggle to cope with her loss. And Hamdan must have been just as devastated. It's in moments like this that I'm often found wanting.

Nonetheless, my prayers are with him. I'll always remember the times we went fishing, camping, the work we shared, the paths we took.

moga-moga roh kamu dicucuri rahmat
moga-moga dimasukkan ke dalam golongan orang-orang yang solih
doaku juga agar roh kamu meniti titian sirotulmustaqim dengan baik adanya

al-Fatihah untuk Mamat, saudara ku.

May we all prosper!

Happy Chinese New Year to all! May the Year of the Rats bring much happines and prosperity. Just the same, mind the yum seng though!