Monday, September 28, 2009

Bagan Pinang is not an easy wrap up

Confidence is oozing within UMNO to defend the Bagan Pinang by-election set to begin on nomination date Novermber 3rd and votes casted on November 11th. Today there will be a Hari Raya celebration to announce the candidate.

As it stand, BN is trailing 1-7 in the series of endless by-elections after the March 2008 general election. UMNO has yet to win it's first by-election. This is not normal for BN who is used to gaining grounds into opposition territory at every by-election in the past.

Since this morning, words are buzzing that former Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Isa Samad will be the candidate for Bagan Pinang. Spirits is running high since all survey, interviews and head count by many parties only points to Isa's candidacy.

Even if it is Isa Samad, it will not be a walkover. Isa will still have to work hard and slog for a victory. The fact that the UMNO Bagan Pinang members widely believed that Isa was fixed in the 2005 money politics charge does not mean it will be plain sailing. Isa received support from all but two UMNO divisions in Negeri Sembilan.

Isa will have to deal with the new political environment, a stronger and vigorous opposition, and internal challenges from within. Isa need to be vigilant to talk that a Seremban residing senior state UMNO politician have announced to his dwindling supporters to "mandikan" Isa.

The overriding factor that may have put UMNO President Najib with no other choice, but the somewhat tainted Isa, is due to the fact that Isa could attract a significant portion of the almost 30% non Malay voters, dejected former BN voters and UMNO party members who have left the party.

Salahuddin Ayub, which is leading PAS charge have set only a modest target to reduce the majority by 50. Naturally, if Isa Samad is nominated, the expectation on Isa is for a larger majority than that of the late Azman's. He needs a large margin win which is not easily obtainable this time around.

This does not render Dr Mahathir's view to reject Isa's candidature as irrelevent. His view as an elder party members is justified. There is nothing personal but a concern of a party elder for the long term future of UMNO.

Although his view has the support of Tan Sri Muhyiddin, few leaders and a section of the public, the overwhelming support from the win deprived grassroot for Isa is too overwhelming.

The posturing and behind the scene manouvring by certain leaders have not gone down well with the grassroot who see it as a clear cut choice. It is a political risk to deny grassroot demand. A loss by candidates other than Isa may place them on the rooster. Only an actual Isa loss will convince them.

However, Dr Mahathir's view should not be taken too literal. He should have other considerations than the obvious.

The Pak Lah man current Menteri Besar may have overstretch himself to think that he is received into Dr Mahathir's stretch arms. Two Raya visits does not change anything that happened in the last five years, especially his past treatment to Mukhriz.

Returning to the optimism by the grassroot, it does not necessarily guarantee an easy win. Isa have to still work hard, if chosen to run. Already UMNO have wasted valuable campaign time. PAS have already done their ceramah series. They have gone house-to-house and person-to-person campaign and covertly enter the army camps.

The 5,000 army votes seen as insurance may not be as easy as it is seems. Already it is heard that PAS may field an ex army as candidate to improve on their 1,600 votes received in the last election.

This time around Malay votes may be effected by the national level issues. Certainly UMNO Information Chief Ahmad Maslan needs to do more than his usual stunt to stay with rural families and go rubbertapping in early morning.

The main concern will be where the non Malay votes go. Isa is an easier and more recognisable candidate than others. If other than Isa, their votes will follow the by-election trend to give to Pakatan, particularly the Chinese voters.

The significant 19% Indian voters is more tricky. Hindraf Utahayakumar already called on the Indians to boycott the elections. Issues like cowhead in Shah Alam would definately touch on their sensitivity. But on October 10th, Najib is launching the Makhal Sakti political party.

Lastly, the perennial problem of internal sabotaging and complacency within UMNO. Isa is actually denigrating himself to become a common ADUN and be the most Junior and last in the pecking order in the State Assembly. He is most unlikely to return as Negeri Sembilan MB.

But Isa's re-entry will certainly make certain leaders nervous, especially with his weakening support from the grassroot. UMNO narrowly missed a win in Manek Urai due to internal sabotaging by the local warlord. In Negeri Sembilan, the recently resigned State UMNO Secretary have recently been reinstated.

The hope is for Bagan Pinang to be the wakeup call to reinvogorate UMNO from the lull and complacency. Pemuda movement having been complacent. Bagan Pinang will be a Mecca of political tourist rather than campaigners. A sign of widespreading complacency.

In fact, sabotage is itself a sign of complacency and indenial. In-fighting usually occur when UMNO is strong. But UMNO is weak now.

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