Friday, March 28, 2008

We hear whispers from PWTC, Putrajaya

THE whispers are getting louder at PWTC, the UMNO headquarters. In fact, some of the whispers emanating from the top floors can be heard far away, and they don't sound so good, and much less upbeat.

The whispers are also heard from Putrajaya, the national administraive capital of the nation. The mood has not been very cheerful in the last few weeks, which prompted some so-called political pundits to forecast more dark days ahead.

Last Thursday, the whispers turned to groans as news filtered out that the party's Supreme Council had endorsed Kijal assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Said as the Terengganu Menteri Besar. The council also agreed not to pursue the nomination of Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh for the post.

Party president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced this to a packed Press Conference after a long meeting held behind closed doors. Ahmad was the pick of the Terengganu Regency Advisory Council and while Idris was the Prime Minister's choice.

This should end the tussle between the Executive and the Palace for the choice of MB. Ahmad's swearing in should be done soon, a ceremony that will further test the resolve of 22 Umno assemblyman who had earlier publicly declared their rejection of the chosen one.

Before Thursday, the Prime Minister had stood his ground and insisted that he would push for Idris' second term as MB. This had given Idris and the 22 assemblymen who had given a written memorandum to the Terengganu Palace continued hope that their man would be the state CEO.

But Pak Lah's audience on Wednesday with the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who is also the Sultan of Terengganu, changed all that. Whispers coming out from the royal encounter indicated bad news for Idris and those on his side. And Pak Lah's news conference confirmed the whispers.

This was the second retreat (some of his detractors used the word defeat) for the Prime Minister. Less than two weeks ago, the Prime Minister had to backtrack from his earlier proclamation that Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim would be made MB of Perlis. Instead, the Palace chose Datuk Mohd Isa Sabu, thus ending another impasse which played itself out as yet another political sandiwara after the general elections.

But now fresh whispers are heard. The grapevine is full of rumours about the possibility of at least a couple of Cabinet ministers from Sabah quiting their post. Why they would want to do so is anybody's guess, but the whispers talk about unhappiness and grievances.

The whispers gained credibility when Tawau MP Datuk Ghafur Salleh tendered his resignation as deputy minister just eight days after he took his oath of office. The official reason was said to be personal but everyone knows that Sabah Umno is less than happy with seat allocation in the federal cabinet.

Sabah, mind you, brought the biggest haul of parliamentary seats in the March 8 election. And state leaders said more Sabah MPs should be promoted to the Cabinet. Just after Pak Lah announced his Cabinet about 10 days ago, the Kimanas MP from Sabah, Datuk Anifah Aman, snubbed the PM by rejecting his offer.

All these dramas do not augur well for the Prime Minister and the Barisan National. In recent days, these episodes have been the butt of jokes making their rounds via text messages and e mails. These are not laughing matters, I tell you. These are national issues never before seen, at least not in the proportion that we are now witnessing.

That the whispers will get louder is a given, to borrow a golf term. That the Executive is forced to 'concede' to the Palace in the issue pertaining to the appointment of the MBs of Perlis and Terengganu is a subject that has caused sleepless nights to the main cast.

There are big questions which play in the minds of MPs and State Assemblymen like Idris. When push came to shove, Idris was left to dry without much of a defence from his boss. After such open display of steadfastness, the executive had to back down, leaving a lot of unanswered questions in its wake.

It is now quite obvious that Ahmad's appointment is a fait accompli, similar to that of Isa Sabu in Perlis. Lest some of you think that this is a game of one upmanship, this is certainly not the case.

What the whole nation witnessed was a gross mishandling of engagements which, in the past, had taken place smoothly and with the minimum of fuss. Almost none in fact.

I'm not sure whether we have seen the last of these episodes. In private discussions, the Umno hierachy speak critically of the PM's handling of the episodes. I anticipate a lot more whispers in the coming weeks, and I dare not speculate what they will be this time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PM: ' serious misjudgement' on cyberwars

DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made some startling admission which was published by the newspapers today. He admitted that he did not move fast enough to push the reforms he had promised and that it was serious misjudgement on the Government's part where cyber battles were concerned.

The Prime Minister was quoted to have said that the Barisan National lost the on-line war, adding: "We didn't think it was important. It was a serious misjudgement."

I respect the PM's views, even though many would say that it's quite normal for everyone to be wiser after the event, or to be wise on hindsight. In this case, the ruling coalition paid dearly for this 'misjudgement' and its inability to move fast enough to deliver promises made after the landslide victory of the 2004 general election.

Critics of the PM may try very hard to suppress their smirk, but the fact is that his inability to follow through the promises has caused untold damages. Losing the two-third majority and surrendering five states (including two of the richest) to the Barisan Rakyat are records which are credited to Pak Lah's administration.

The prolonged internal squabbles to form the state governments of Perlis and Terengganu did little to ease the pain and humiliation of the defeats stated above. Now, the Prime Minister has promised to make good following the people's clear message conveyed to him via the ballot boxes.

But actually, the challenges for Pak Lah to deliver these promises are that much more difficult than before. In layman's terms, he has less soldiers to do battle (there aren't even enough MPs to be appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries); and the formula for effective collaboration between the Federal Government and the State Governments under the BR have yet to be fully worked out.

The rakyat too have become more discerning. Those not under the BR administration are watching closely how the BR are governing theirs, which means that the voters now have a bigger sampling to compare the style and effectiveness of a BN state and that of a BR state.

It's going to be very interesting. As I've said in my previous postings, Pak Lah, already facing some serious political manouverings in his backyard, have more than just governmental reforms to undertake. Events in the coming weeks or months need to be followed very closely and may have an impact on whether or not these reforms could be undertaken.

What will PM brief the King today?

TODAY marks the second meeting of the new Cabinet under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. In the past week, there were news coverage of the old ministers handing over duties to their new colleagues. As for the new ones, some had begun giving interviews to the local media, sharing their views, hopes and plans.

Taxpayers wait anxiously what good tidings the new Cabinet will bring. At the state level, especially in states controlled by the Barisan Rakyat, some serious discussions had already started as to how the new coalition will share power to adminster the states. This is a new experience for them, considering the differences in ideologies, principles and ways of doing things.

Taxpayers and voters, be it at the national or state level, have only one thing in their mind - return the faith they had shown by voting both the Barisan National and Barisan Rakyat into power. We want changes that will impact positively on our qualty of life. Period.

But there are still squabbles that have not shown signs of being resolved. The appointment of the Terengganu Menteri Besar is still very much a disputed matter, with both the Executive and the Monarchy insisting that they will not budge from their stand.

Pak Lah yesterday said that he would be seeking an audience with the King over the matter, while his MB nominee Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said he was prepared to meet the King and apologise for whatever wrongdoing, if any.

Both statements, I reckon, are sensible enough. My simple question is - why weren't these done earlier? Prime Ministers, Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers knew that the handling of Rulers is a matter of considerable skill and importance.

Over the years, we have seen how the most seemingly difficult Ruler developed a good working relationship with the Executive, resulting in much harmony and unity of purpose in their respective roles and responsibilities.

Today being Cabinet day, the Prime Minister would usually have an audience with the King, a routine that would see the PM briefing His Majesty the latest in Government matters and issues. Would the Terengganu issue be discussed at today's audience? What would the outcome be?

In the BR-controlled states, their leaders should wipe that smirk across their faces, and the sniggering that goes with their laughter as they have a good laugh over their counterparts in Perlis and Terengganu. They may have less difficulties in appointing their CM or MB. But the test of their political pact will surely come in the coming months and years.

The nation's political sandiwara continues. But the rakyat can't be fed with scene after scene of political oneupmanship. The goings on may make interesting talk over teh tarik and roti canai. But life, as we all know, is more than just Pelita's thosai or Raju's banana leave or nasi lemak Tanglin.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More than dignity at stake over MB issue

THINGS are not getting any better politically. A major confrontation between the Executive and the Monarchy appears inevitable, and this is going to be very, very costly. No one knows yet what the outcome is going to be, but I doubt if it's going to be pretty.

The dispute over the selection of a Menteri Besar for oil-rich Terengganu is about to turn for the worse if no steps are taken quickly to find an amicable solution. While the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the ruling Barisan National insists that Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh continue to be the MB, the Palace prefers Kijal State Assemblymen Datuk Ahmad Said.

And we all saw the open display of support for Ahmad Said when he returned to Kemaman after his audience with the King in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Ahmad Said insisted that he also has the support of enough assemblymen, some of whom had earlier written a memorandum expressing their support to the Prime Minister and his MB nominee, Idris.

One can discuss and argue on the legal merits or otherwise of the issue at hand until the cows come home, but this will not guarantee a solution given the seriousness with which the feuding parties are trying to advance their case.

The truth of the matter is that the irony of the issue is not lost on the ordinary rakyat. Having spent millions in the March 8 general election, and having succeeded in defending their hold on Terengganu, the BN is about to shoot its own foot.

More than two weeks after retaining the state, the position of the MB is still a disputed affair. States under the control of Barisan Rakyat (DAP, PAS and PKR) have sorted out their leadership hierachy and is gradually starting their work in earnest.

Amidst the confusion (at least to the layman), Pak Lah's hold on the national leadership is being increasingly questioned. If the report in yesterday's Star is to be believed, some 80 branch leaders from Muar has joined the chorus urging Pak Lah to step down. The Star, while reporting the matter, buried the story deep in page 29.

It is not known who these branch leaders are, but when viewed alongside Gerakan's statement that the 'arrogance of some Umno leaders' had caused their defeat in Penang and elsewhere cannot but get the PM's attention.

The BN and its leaders have several major fights on their hands, that with the Monarchy being one of the major ones. Despite the plea by some of them not to engage in the blame game, the accusations and counter accusations are coming in thick and fast, providing much merriment to the Barisan Rakyat.

If Pak Lah is unable to see through Idris's appointment as the MB, especially after publicly declaring his support of his nominee, things can get pretty rough for the PM. In fact, many political observers say a lot more than just Pak Lah's reputation and dignity is at stake should he fail to push his man through.

There's talk that the Rulers are getting together among themselves to deliberate on the matter. A senior Umno leader is fearful of what the Rulers will do after they meet. Will they soften their stand, or take on a more hardened position?

While some may argue that the current dispute is nothing more than mind games for the ruling elite and the royal households, others fear that a more open and direct confrontation can have a disastrous effect on the country's credibility, its national leadership and the public's respect for the institutions.

I like to think that common sense will prevail. This country cannot afford to have a constitutional crisis of the proportion seen in the '80s. But really, the damage has been done. I hope I'm wrong, but I believe there will be casualties before a solution is found.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Perfect storm on the horizon..

THE New Sunday Times headlines said there's a storm brewing in the east. I think quite differently - I think there's a storm brewing in the whole country. The monsoon from the east could blow across the country and force us to sit indoors.

Umno's decision to sack Kijal state assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Said for agreeing to become the Menteri Besar triggers a potentially explosive encounter with the Terengganu Royalty. Lawyers from Umno and the Palace are now poring over documents to back their claims that each is correct in the issue.

The legalities aside, the common man is quite perplexed over the situation. Two weeks after winning a two-third majority in the state assembly, the Barisan National couldn't still form the state Government as it got stuck in a tussle with the Palace.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants Datuk Idris Jusoh to continue as the MB. The Terengganu palace wants Ahmad Said. As for the voters, they just want a state government be formed a soon as possible and business can resume as usual.

An Umno branch chief said Pak Lah should get his forces behind him and not retrack from his position. Pak Lah should do what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad did when he curbed the powers of the Sultans in the constitutional crisis of the '80s.

But Pak Lah is no Mahathir. And the times, they are also different. When Dr Mahathir took on the Royalty, he had the whole Umno behind him. In fact, he had the whole country behind him too.

Pak Lah doesn't have the whole Umno behind him, and perhaps the whole country too. Coming from a general election where Pak Lah and BN lost its two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat and five states to the Barisan Rakyat, the Prime Minister goes into the Terengganu 'encounter' already bruised and hurting.

I'd rather not speculate the outcome of the encounter. Both the PM and the Palace need to tread carefully or both could lead the country to troubled waters. As it is, the PM is already facing issues within Umno and the BN.

Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's call for an extraordinary general assembly and his intention to challenge Pak Lah for the presidency; Jerlun MP Datuk Mukriz's call for Pak Lah to step down; simmering dissatisfaction following the formation of his Cabinet - these are among the rearguard action that the PM is faced with.

Friends who was at the F1 race in Sepang said the PM wasn't in his element, and the crowd's reception wasn't all that encouraging, judging that this was the PM's first public appearance after the March 8 election.

What next, you may ask. My question is - are we about to get to a perfect storm?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pak Lah snubs Wanita; MPs snub PM

THE Barisan Rakyat's victory in the general election has caused a lot more problems (some say upheaval) in the ruling Barisan Nasional, especially in Umno. Having wrested Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan from the BN, the BR has caused more than sleepless nights for BN leaders.

The loss of these states and the failure to defend its famous two-third majority has caused considerable disarray within the BN household.

The decision by Umno SecGen Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad to bail out cuts right into the heart of the party administration. On national television, Radzi said he wouldn't be able to serve effectively because he's not a member of the Cabinet.

His replacement is Putrajaya MP Teuku Adnan Teuke Mansori (correct), who was Tourism Minister before the election. Ku Tan had served as sec gen before and is no stranger to the post. He's not been reappointed to the Cabinet. Going by Radzi's reasoning, Ku Nan too won't be effective. We wait and see.

The exclusion of Wanita Chief Datuk Seri Rafidah A Aziz from the Cabinet drew much flak from the movement. Rafidah has decided to stay and see through the movement in the coming weeks. She had written a stinging letter to PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi giving her views on the BN's defeat. This, it seems, didn't go down well with the PM.

Pak Lah has much to do to calm down nerves in the party. The Wanita faction has to be addressed and comforted. Appointing Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil as advisor with ministerial status was an after-thought and came after the Wanita had made known their views. It goes against Pak Lah's earlier statement that ministers who lost won't be reappointed.

Sabah too have expressed unhappiness at not being given more ministerial posts. And Sabah had kept its promised by delivering the state back to the BN comfortably. Sabah may not show their disappointments openly but the grapevine is full of what they can and want to do.

As far as I recalled, there was never a time in the past when MPs snubbed the PM pertaining to their appointment to senior government posts. This could be a precedent, and may have far-reaching implications.

What about Pemuda Umno's decision not to take Jerlun MP Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir to task for demanding Pak Lah to step down? Does this mean that the Pemuda leadership no longer understand the 'tersirat' when Pak Lah instructed the Pemuda to 'deal' with Mukhriz? Is this an act of defiance by Pemuda?

Then came news that former Selangor MB Datuk Seri Khir Toyo had quit as the state Umno Liaision chief...

Amidst all these commotion, Gua Musang MP and Division chief Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah announced that he's prepared to take on Pak Lah in the upcoming party elections. Another battle royale, it seems, is on the card.

All these happened on the day the Cabinet was sworn in. Will we see more action in the coming weeks? You tell me...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ground movements after Cabinet named

THINGS are hot on the ground after Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced his Cabinet lineup yesterday. The Prime Minister's press conference was short, depriving the waiting journalists with a full rationale of the appointments.

No doubt the appointments were the PM's sole prerogative, but an insight into the whys these MPs, senators and would-be senators from the PM wouldn't hurt anyone. In fact, it would help the voters understand some of the thinking why their MPs were selected or dropped.

That notwithstanding, the appointments did not meet with complete approval. At least one MP, Datuk Anifah Aman (Kimanis, Sabah) had rejected the offer, believed to be because he had hoped for a promotion to full minister having served as a deputy for two terms.

Word on the ground is that Tengku Dato Seri Azlan Ahmad Syah too had declined the post of deputy foreign minister, also on the same ground. It's not often one hears of such rejection, and almost immediately after their names were made public. Mind you, the rejection comes on the eve of the swearing in of these ministers and deputy ministers.

Wanita Umno, an important wing of the party, is also upset, to say the least, of the announcement. No wanita representative is in the Cabinet, a departure from all past appointments. This has prompted the Wanita members to demand an explanation from Pak Lah.

These issues are not likely going to go away. Pak Lah has high hopes for his Cabinet, and the people are not going to wait long before they, too, voice their displeasures. The people had done this via the ballot boxes on March 8, and they expect the government to start delivering their promises ASAP (as soon as possible).

Pak Lah will also have to give some thought to Pemuda Umno's decision not to take any disciplinary action on Jerlun MP, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, for demanding the PM's resignation for the poor showing of the Barisan Nasional in last week's general election.

On top of this, Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, is also asking Umno members to join him in demanding for an extraordinary general assembly to discuss party leadership in the wake of the general election which saw the opposition forming new governments in Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor.

The next few days are going to be a most interesting period for all of us. More surprises could be in store.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Expect more politics in weeks ahead

DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is expected to name his Cabinet tomorrow (Monday March 17). The swearing-in is expected to be on Tuesday and the first Cabinet meeting is diaried for Wednesday.

Everone's waiting and watching. Members of the Cabinet who lost in the March 8 election will also be watching, but they already know that they won't be included in the line-up. The Prime Minister has already made this known a few days ago.

That means no place for Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil, Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu, Tasn Sri Koh Tsu Koon and a host of deputy ministers who, until today, are stunned by their defeats. Deputy Ministers who retained their seats, however, are pinning their hopes on a promotion, and those from the MCA and UMNO are keeping their fingers crossed.

But there's no sympathy from some sections of the public on the losers. The sms that are floating around suggests so. One such sms made reference to Samy Vellu sending his resume to friends asking them to get him a job. Another one said former Information Minister Datuk Zainudin Maidin has asked the Mydin supermarket whether he can be made chief of security!

The public make jokes of everything, it seems. But the issue before the nation is far from a laughing matter. As at today, the issue of who will be sworn in as Menteri Besar of Perlis and Terengganu is still unclear. It must be noted that these states are controlled by the Barisan Nasional, which means appointing an MB is not a matter of violent dispute.

Are we seing a fight between the Prime Minister and the royal households of the two states. Before the general election, both MBs - Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh - had declared that they would continue to be MBs after the polls. As can be seen, this is not the case. Yet.

When Shahidan was told by the Raja of Perlis that he won't be MB, and that the palace preferred Dato Md Isa Sabu instead, the small state's political uncertainty goes into high gear and is on the verge of a crisis. We have to keep an eye on this, as we do on Terengganu.

While Pak Lah tries to figure out what to do amidst all this, he must also watch his rearguard. Word on the ground is that PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has gone to Sabah and Sarawak to 'shop' for BN MPs. The DAP-PAS-PKR coalition needs some 35 MPs to tilt the balance of power.

Anwar and his colleagues won't find this easy. Or acceptable even. In fact, it would be a near impossibility. In relation to this, I've been told that a PKR state assemblyman was approached by a BN 'procurement committee' but no deal was recorded.

Whatever happens, I expect the coming weeks to be more political. And that is not necessarily good. The duty of Government is to provide an effective administration and we can't have political dramas distracting everyone from moving forward.

Pak Lah, already facing a call from one of his new MPs to step down, have his hands full even before the full structure of his administration is formed. There's much undercurrent within Umno. Leaders and members are in various caucuses as they try to undertstand what is happening, and what lies ahead.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Has Mukhriz got steel balls?

SIX days after the 13th general election, the country is still gripped with intense political manouvering, a situation that may not necessary be good and productive.

BN Chairman and UMNO President Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been sworn in as Prime Minister and has the mandate to form his Cabinet. And this has resulted in lobbying for position as candidates try to get the PM's attention for coveted portfolios like Finance, International Trade, Education and Home Ministry.

But developments in the last 24 hours have triggered fresh speculation on an even more important matter - would Pak Lah stay on as Prime Minister or take heed of the mounting pressure for him to step aside.

New MP for Jerlun, Mukhriz Mahathir, has written to the PM asking him to relinquish his post in the interest of the rakyat. The PM's ways, the young MP said, can no longer be accepted by the rakyat.

Described as a young man with steel balls, Mukhriz is fully aware of the huge risk he's taking. It could be downhill for him after this. Political suicide, others said. But there's enough people who says that he did what he did as this is the 'right thing to do.'

The political grapevine has it that several Umno divisions have also expressed strong views of the PM's ways, and some are urging him to reconsider his position as the country's CEO. In the Umno set up and psyche, you don't take the views of the division chiefs lightly. Rumour also has it that some of them have also put in writing their views on the matter to Pak Lah.

The next few days can be very telling for the country's political landscape. There will be lines drawn, alliances made, promises broken. Umno's history have seen so much of this, and nothing is over until it's over!

The PM's state teams have also not been fully sorted out. There's still some tustle in Perlis and Trengganu. Word is both states are likely to have new MBs, and this will have some downside among the politicians involve. This could trigger new disappointment and result in more infighting.

The ground is very hot. Pak Lah's leadership is under close scrutiny when the BN failed to retain its two-third majority in Parliament, and the unprecedented loss of Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor and Federal Territory to the Barisan Rakyat.

Despite its public announcement that Kelantan will dump Pas and go with the BN, the ruling coalition's attempt has been thwarted. Again. The electorate doesn't take too kindly to candidates puffing their expensive cigars, and whose preferred mode of campaign transport is a helicopter.

BN leaders are speculating among themselves that the country may have a new PM soon. But Pak Lah is no greenhorn in political gamesmanship. And he's not without supporters, as seen from the public declaration by the Umno supreme council after its meeting this week.

It has been proven that it's never easy to unseat a sitting PM. If the PM has very strong support from those around him, and if the rakyat is solidly behind him, the PM can sleep easy, assured that he has the solid mandate from everyone.

In Pak Lah's case, results of the 13th general election may have far reaching implications than just the simple issue of losing the two-third majority and four states to the Opposition. Let's wait and see.

The Pas moon continues to shine in the east coast states and made significant inroads in the west coast of the peninsukar. With its partners DAP and PKR, Pas remains a substantial force on the Malaysian political landscape.

These losses have led Umno grassroots and senior leaders to question Pak Lah's leadership. One former Cabinet minister told his sidekicks that his defeat was due to the PM's increased unpopularity, which prompted another Umno leader to conclude that the party has a BIG, BIG problem.

Despite the declaration of support from Supreme Council members to Pak Lah, we all know that such declaration may come to nought should divisional chiefs take matters into their own hands and start passing resolutions calling for Pak Lah's resignation.

The divisional chiefs are ground marshalls whose favours are much sought-after, and no Umno leader can take lightly the views and actions of these chiefs. And if Jerlun MP Dato Mukhriz Mahathir's letter to Pak Lah asking him to step aside is any indicitation, there could be more such letters asking for the same thing.

The way I see it - the PM suddenly finds himself in the centre of the storm which could changed the colour of the national political landscape.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

BN and BA sandiwara begins in earnest

IN 2004, the BN's rout of the Opposition in the General Election led to a euphoria of massive proportions. In four years, the bubble bursts, to be replaced by a a feeling of dejection and anguish. It's a new feeling for the BN, despite the overall victory and being returned to govern the country.

The euphoria this time is with the Barisan Alternatif, which denied the BN its two-third majority and claimed control of Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor while retaining Kelantan, a PAS stronghold. For the first time, DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS are in control of the west coast of the peninsula except Malacca and Johore.

I don't expect the euphoria to last, but I do expect the anguish of the BN to turn ugly and acrimonious in the coming weeks. Umno, the main flagbearer of the BN, will have its annual general assembly in August this year, and there are signs that the assembly will be the most explosive in its history.

The BA's resolve will also be tested. The voters who rallied behind them want to see if the alliance of the three components was just a marriage of convenience, as often described, or otherwise.

The decision by the DAP to boycott the swearing in of the new Perak Menteri Besar on Thursday does not lend much credence to the cry that the BA is indeed a viable alternative to the BN. In less than 24 hours, we will know if the DAP's intention to boycott the swearing in is serious or a ploy to test PAS and PKR's stand in the new state coalition.

BA in Penang seemed to have a smoother passage in forming the State Government. The new CM Lim Guan Eng appears serious in wanting to start work as soon as possible. The convention is that he and his team will be given 100 days to settle down, or 'warm up' as the case may be.

But judging from Guan Eng's statement's today, he seemed bent on doing work as soon as possible.

The BN's ousted administrators in the four states will now play the role of opposition assemblymen, a role they are very unfamiliar with. It will be very interesting to see how they cope wigth a taste of their own medicine when the new assembly sits soon.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Blame game in the BN has started

THE finger pointing has already started within the BN. Less than 24 hours after getting kicked out of Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor and having failed to reclaim Kelantan, the blame game has started.

Even before the election, there were voices saying that the ruling coalition was about to get some surprises. When it happened, the party leaders stood stunned and speechless. Pak Lah's Press Conference lasted not more than five minutes, and he fielded a few questions from the many newsmen.

This was in contrast to the 2004 victory Press Conference when Pak Lah were surrounded by a big crowd of newsmen wanting to ask him questions. The PM smiled, and answered all questions. There was also a big celebration of cake cutting and songs and flag waving in the Dewan Tun Hussein Onn at party headquarters to mark the unprecedented win.

But this time around, the Press Conference was short. Even the audio wasn't clear and there weren't many victorious faces in the background when Pak Lah claimed victory of the country's 12th general election.

In only four years, the euphoria brought about by a historic win at the polls had burst and turned to agony. A win is a win, of course. But the taste of victory is bitter, almost hollow. This was one victory accompanied by a lot of pain and disappointment.

The finger-pointing actually started on the night the results were announced. The Perlis Menteri Besar, Shahidan Kassim, took a swipe at his party colleagues, though no names were mentioned. Shahidan, who retained his seat and state, said BN Perlis and especially UMNO Perlis had to endure internal stabbing while fending off opposition party onslaught.

Shahidan was apparently referring to UMNO and BN Secretary General Radzi Sheikh Ahmad who, during the election run-up, had declared that the best person to be Perlis MB was Azmi Khalid.

Radzi's reasons were simple - Azmi is his friend and that he has a young and beautiful wife. (The wife was a newscaster with private TV station, TV3.)

While Shahidan's outburst was shown on TV (which has not been repeated for obvious reasons), I believe other expressions of anger, disappointment and frustration were made in private and shared only with close family members and close confidants.

In the country's history, the ruling coalition has not seen a more humiliating rejection.On top of losing four states to the Opposition and unable to win back one (Kelantan), the Barisan also lost its two-third majority for the first time.

BN components Gerakan, MCA and the MIC suffered a defeat that could very well compell their members to decide whether or not to continue their struggle under the same name. The parties only managed a token representation in the new government.

The blame game is going to be more intensed in the coming weeks. No one within the BN hierarchy will be spared. There'll be calls for resignations, that's for sure. I expect this call to be louder and widespread.