No room for favouritism

By Wednesday November 30th, 2011 No Comments

GET ready for the crunch. That’s the word from Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the ground as he prepares his troops for the 13th general election.
The prime minister chose the analogy of the recitation of the azan, or the Muslim call to prayer, to good effect when he addressed the Umno crowd, comprising officials from 191 party divisions who had gathered at Putra World Trade Centre’s Dewan Merdeka yesterday.
From him to them, this session, the Taklimat Presiden, was like the first azan already recited, with all that’s left being the second call — to get the congregation ready for a prayer.
A call to prayer, what more if it is done twice, is a vital call. And that is the key message.
Najib is anxious about Umno’s election preparations, not so much because he is leading Umno and the Barisan Nasional ruling alliance into the general election for the first time, but more because the ground reports in his hands suggested that preparations at some divisions were not up to expectations.
Factionalism and internal bickering, it is understood, were indeed slowing down preparations in some divisions.
Jockeying and bickering for positions for the next party elections have apparently worsened, and this is causing a lot of worry in the Umno leadership.
To these aspirants, Najib made clear at yesterday’s briefing that even those in the divisional hierarchy would not be election candidates if they were not winnable for the general election.
His more frustrating message to some perhaps, was that he would leave no room for favouritism, even if it meant leaving out his own friends if they were not winnable.
As for the old guard , Najib would prefer them to voluntarily not seek re-election for the sake of party renewal and that he would be uneasy if someone as old as 70 years could still be interested in contesting , thinking he is a winnable candidate.
A grand old party with six decades of history behind it like Umno, needs to be rejuvenated in order to appeal to the masses, particularly young people.
The party is already losing out to opposition parties whose leaders are young and more educated, factors that make these parties more saleable to young voters.
From the tone of his message, sabotage among members is the other malaise that Najib wants to put a stop to. Such acts had always reduced the winning chances of the Umno candidates.
In the political context, the phrase chah keting or petih keting is normally used, it means destroying the political career of another, usually someone from the same party, in retaliation for not being chosen as a candidate oneself.
There are many ways to sabotage someone: ensuring one’s supporters close down the election machinery, inciting them not to vote, sometimes resorting to criminal and immoral acts such as tearing down posters and spreading lies and rumours about a candidate — and even giving money to the opposing candidate.
Umno cannot afford to have the culture of chah keting to prevail during the election campaign, not in its present strength.
Support from every single party member is a valuable winning point.
This was the reason why Najib had called on party members to make the bai’ah (pledge of political allegiance) in support of candidates that the party leadership had chosen, even if these candidates are outsiders or parachute candidates.
Umno is trying to fix its image. It also wants to win many more seats in all states in the next polls, and what it needs most, at this point, is to see its machinery intensify preparations for the polls.
For Najib it is important that Umno, as the linchpin of BN, take the lead in defending Putrajaya which the opposition alliance had vowed to capture.
The party has no option but to return to base with a bigger number of seats in order for BN to become a stronger government than today.
This was his clear message yesterday which he wanted every Umno member to understand.

Source : New Straits Times

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