YB Azman, the State Assemblymen for Bagan Pinang died last Friday. May Allah bless his soul.
As it is, Anwar is rearing to go for an 8-1. Hadi and PAS have fired the first salvo to raise the issue of the presense of 5,000 postal votes in the 14,000 voters Bagan Pinang DUN area. But quietly they have roped in former army high officials in their fold to do their house to house campaigning.
Although it is disrespectful to certain Malay custom to start dividing the decessed's "property" when the grave soil is still fresh, one can quite understand their excitement. Pakatan have made in-road into Negeri Semblan and in particular, the Telok Kemang Parliamentary area. What was once a BN stronghold, has PKR and DAP representatives at the State Assembly.
The current and viewed as the most unpopular Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Dato Mohamad Hasan said he is leaving it entirely to the Division Committee to offer several candidates to the PM. Is it really true he is abstaining from interfering? The Division is due to meet on Thursday to decide. But political pundits are placing their money on Tan Sri Isa Samad, the former Menteri Besar.
Khairy - viewed suspiciously by Isa as part of the invisible hands in the grand design to topple him from his Vice President post in 2004 - could only offer a timid advise to choose the right candidate. Strangely, the unofficial UMNO Bagan Pinang blog is full with paraphenalia of Khairy. However, the Bagan Pinang branch is headed by Isa. He is also the Division head for UMNO Telok Kemang Division who returned unanimously recently.
The voices on the ground are loudly and clearly calling for Isa to be selected as candidate. Sentiments for Isa can be partly due to the belief that he was made scapegoat and money politics was merely an excuse in the 2004 party election. Isa had unexpectedly came out the highest in a tight VP race against Muhyiddin, Ali Rustam, Muhammad Taib and other powerhouses in 2004.
Many believed that Isa had to be brought down in a grand design to strengthen Tun Abdullah's faction stronghold on Negeri Sembilan to make passage safe for Khairy. Isa's UMNO membership was suspended for three years by the Disciplinary Committee and automatically removed from his Vice Presidency post.
Those familiar with the case against Isa described the disciplinary process as questionable. Isa's defense and rebuttal to the accusation was rejected outright and not given fair consideration. The proof's presented were clearly frivolous and unsubtantiated.
The committee seemed to have been instructed from "upstairs" to find Isa guilty and dish out a severe punishment. This was not unusual during the early reign of Abdullah. Dato Ibrahim Ali was arbitrarily removed as Division head. Blogger Zaharin Yassin was sacked by the Majlis Tertinggi despite recomended by the Disciplinary Committee for temporarily suspension and after a deal was made to secure his apology.
While in Negeri Sembilan, Mohamad Hasan or Mat Hasan as he is usually refered to failed miserably as Menteri Besar. He was seen as giving control on the state and party matter to his elder brother Azman. In a recent closed door state UMNO pow-wow with Muhyiddin, he was openly criticised by participants for his family cronyism practises to place his family members all over the place.
The general feeling is he is the most unpopular Menteri Besar Negeri Sembilan had ever had. He is only counting days. Even in a recent UMNO Rembau annual general meeting, he was howled from the floor during his speech. Sources informed that the howler was removed and beaten up by his Divisional goons.
Consensus within Negeri Sembilan believe that Negeri Sembilan BN's poor showing in the last General Election was attributed to the anger in the treatment of Isa, the resentment towards Abdullah and Khairy, and Mat Hasan factor. BN is administering the state with only a three seat majority.
Isa's Telok Kemang Division to lost three ADUN seats to Pakatan. It could be out of sentimental factor that Isa is sought after to stem this slide. Many in the party long for the day that Negeri Sembilan was a BN stronghold state under the "reign" of Isa.
The decision is left to Najib but it is a tricky one. Political pundits are saying the choice is Isa Samad or lost?
Najib can't afford to keep using the excuse that BN lost in a strong opposition area. Before the current situation, BN are usually near invincible during by-elections and would only lose to big name opposition candidates.
Another tricky part is Isa represents the preservation of a war lord culture and inhibits Najib's plan to meremajakan UMNO by injecting fresh new blood. As it is, many believed that former Ketua Pemuda Telok Kemang and son, Najib Isa is a choice and so are one or two other.
Maybe Najib has to face up to political reality on the ground and make Bagan Pinang an exception.
An Isa win could destabalise the internal state politics within UMNO. Mat Hasan could take that as a signal from above to oust him, although it is unlikely for Isa to make a return as MB.
Perhaps the way out of it is to maintain Mat Hasan as MB but Isa as Ketua Perhubungan UMNO. Isa is a seasoned and popular campaigner for the rural constituents. His role could play could be confined strengthen UMNO and BN in Negeri Sembilan. Mat Hasan be brought to Federal level or if no more viable, replaced in the next General Election. That would put Khairy's position in an uncomfortable spot in Rembau
The biggest question would be: Is Isa qualified to meet the current political senario? In addition to the tattered image of money politics, there are those that see Isa as a misfit today. The revival in support for Isa is seen as factional reaction against Mat Hasan.
Isa will certainly have to explain what he meant by those 2,000 delegates answerable to him at Padang Mahsyar said on the last day of the UMNO General Assembly of 2004.
Many worry that PAS would capitalised on his money politics past. The saving grace this time around is PAS will not dare play character assasination against him. It will be severely retaliated, especially if BN is on the losing, as what Mahfudz received in Permatang Pasir. A personal attack on an established politician could backfire. As veteran, Isa is quite capable of taking and dishing back insult even with Anwar Ibrahim.
Some amendment proposed for the new UMNO Constitution seek for local Division to choose their election candidates. Helicoptering candidates seldom lead to disaster and stifle local machinery.
Isa is unquestionably the popular choice but it leaves the party stuck in old school way of doing things. Something Najib wants to move on from.
But this is where realpolitiks or the reality of politics. After all the analysis, rhetorics and intelectualism, it will come down to votes delivery. When it is down to the crunch like this, it is a question of winning.
After all, isn't Anwar an ex-convict indicted for abuse of executive power to instruct police officers to turnover allegations made against him?
In the meanwhile, Khairy may have to just keep quiet and helplessly look at the prospect of Isa returning from the dead.
* Edited 9/9/09 10:30 PM
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
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