Saturday, December 29, 2012

For BN, a balancing act between voters and warlords

For BN, a balancing act between voters and warlords

December 29, 2012
Malaysian Insider
Najib previously urged Umno members who miss the boat to accept BN’s choice of candidates. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 ― The Barisan Nasional’s (BN) inability to nail down a final list of candidates and the need to strike a delicate balance between pleasing voters and not sidelining its political warlords has been cited as reasons for the delay in calling elections, Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported today. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has continued to keep Malaysians guessing over the date of the polls even though several dates have been bandied about in the media over the past year.
The Umno president and BN chairman has also refused to release BN’s candidates list for the polls, despite several calls from grassroots leaders to do so, noting that keeping the list under wraps is a “strategic” decision.
Quoting political analyst Oh Ei Sun today, Singapore’s ST reported that although the federal opposition pact Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is in itself entangled in a tussle over seats, the problem of selecting the best contestants is worse for BN than for its political foes.
Oh said that PKR and DAP lack a strong grassroots system that would allow a party leader to mobilise an efficient election machinery that would prevent sabotage of a candidate.
“In Umno, however, the system of patronage means a lot of people owe their livelihoods to certain leaders and warlords. The potential and ability to sabotage candidates are much stronger,” the analyst was quoted as saying.
Sabotage has been highlighted as among one of Umno’s greatest fears going into the 13th general election.
During the party’s last two general assemblies, this was the strongest message that Najib sent to the party’s over three million members.
He repeatedly reminded members to accept the candidates selected by the BN leadership, even if they are not chosen, and urged them to work with their respective parties to ensure the candidate wins the polls for BN.
In his message, Najib had laced a stern warning that BN could lose if not careful and the pact must not take for granted that its past over 50-year-rule would continue after the next polls.
But ST noted today that BN’s prolonged process of selecting its candidates has got some members feeling antsy.
Still, political observer Hsu Dar Ren, a former leader in Gerakan, said it is absolutely imperative that BN places emphasis on finding “clean, fresh-faced candidates”, the paper reported.
According to Hsu, this would be a good way to respond to PR’s 2008 polls strategy where the pact had fielded a broad slate of young professionals.
“The point he (Najib) wants to make is to tell voters that they don’t have to choose PR because the BN has good candidates too,” Hsu was quoted as saying. “But getting old ‘unwinnable’ candidates to step down is not easy. They’re very entrenched and formidable.”

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