Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Anwar Ibrahim's Moment of Truth

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Arabnews: Anwar Ibrahim's Moment of Truth
Posted by: mdnorhafiz

I woke up this morning and found this article from leading English-newspaper of Saudi Arabia which I should share with readers from Malaysia.

by Mushtak Parker

THERE is something about politicians and ultimatums. They either fizzle out or, as in the case of the British ultimatum to Hitler to get out of Poland in 1939, lead to war.

Today, Malaysia is waiting with bated breath to see if the newly elected opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim can deliver on his ultimatum to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi that, on this day, they would be out of office. Anwar would achieve this by convincing some 40 BN members of Parliament to cross the floor and defect to his Parti Kaedilan Rakyat (PKR) which, together with the 81 seats it won in the general election in March 2008, would give it a working majority in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat (parliament).

On Aug. 26, Anwar, the controversial former deputy prime minister and finance minister under Mahathir Mohamed, returned to mainstream politics after winning an expected landslide by-election in the Permatang Pauh constituency which was vacated by his wife Wan Azizah Ismail. For almost a decade, Anwar was in the political wilderness and banned from active politics following his conviction on corruption and other charges, some of which were overturned on appeal. The real reason was that he tried to oust Mahathir in an attempted palace coup which backfired badly, suggesting Anwar’s political inexperience and poor judgment, especially in selecting his close advisers, who seemed to be more interested in instant power and money than the interests of the Malays, Malaysians and the country in general.

Anwar is a fiery orator, who uses to tremendous advantage the skill of speaking honed during the days of his youth when he was the leader of the Malaysian Muslim Youth Organization (ABIM), which had close ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

What is galling about the current drama is that the ruling BN has not learned any lessons from the initial case against Anwar. Indeed, some of these ugly charges have resurfaced strongly undermining the credibility and integrity of Malaysia’s political and state institutions. As former Finance Minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, the developments in Malaysian politics are symptoms of “a crippling loss of confidence in our key institutions... (when) ... personality-dominated politics degenerates ... (leading to) ... the destruction of reputations, intrigues, spy scandals, succession plans and whatnot stratagems to resolve leadership contests.”

Judging by the latest opinion polls, the entire upper echelons of BN and its main component, UMNO (United Malays National Organization), led by Prime Minister Badawi and his deputy, Najib Bin Tengku Abdul Razak, have sunk to the depth of unpopularity

In the topsy-turvy world of Malaysian, nay Malay, politics, the danger is that public perception of the system is that of one riddled with chaos, corruption and cowardice. Some Malaysians complain of a government that has lost its direction and purpose and is paralyzed. Others stress that Badawi is weak, clueless and ineffectual — effectively a lame-duck premier. The truth is that the caliber of any potential successors is does not augur well for the short-term future of Malaysian politics.

In a culture of accusations and counteraccusations, Malaysian politics is reminiscent more of a soap opera such as Dallas or Dynasty than the serious business of state it is. Instead of a scheming Texan oil billionaire, we have the hapless Penang son of an Alim as the leading man. Yes, he is genteel and has a passion for Jazz music. But he has spectacularly failed to lead from the front giving the impression that his administration lacks drive and cannot take big decisions especially at a time when the global financial system is reeling because of a credit crunch; oil prices have been at a record high; and the rising prices of food and spiraling cost of living is affecting the lives of millions of ordinary Malaysians.

However, there is a lot of misinformation and hype on all sides. On the economy, for instance, the fundamentals and statistics show that the Malaysian economy, despite the credit crunch, is faring much better than the government’s critics suggest. On the other side, a Cabinet wish list, whose origins are mysterious, has been circulating with Anwar as the prime minister-in-waiting. Anwar’s detractors, not surprisingly, have dubbed it is the Babi Cabinet — the Barisan Anwar Bin Ibrahim Cabinet.

Today will show that Anwar will fail to deliver his ultimatum or pledge, which will be discarded to the scrapheap of political hot air. In Malaysian politics, Anwar may have stirred a hornet’s nest. But the reality is that most Malaysians remain ambivalent about him. More worrying for him is that, in a recent poll, more than half of the Malaysians surveyed did not support him or were not satisfied with his performance as opposition politician. Similarly, perhaps more significantly, many Malaysian youth remain unswayed by Anwar, who after all is in his sixties.

Part of Badawi’s problem is that he is still operating under the shadow of Mahathir, who seems to be incapable of letting the reins go or spending time with his grandchildren. Mahathir has consistently sought to undermine Badawi and has publicly berated him for abandoning his policies and has even resigned as a member of UMNO in protest.

(extract from Arabnews dated September 16, 2008)

1 comment:

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