I think I have been having too many Christmases in 2008. The gifts just keep pouring in.
In 2001 when Mahathir made his UMNO General Assembly drama of quitting, so many fell on each other to show they undying support for the President. Why are these supporters quiet today, has the love gone away? Come on Rafidah, Azalina, Hisham and everyone else, show some spine.
On a more objective note, let us ask the questions. In political science, asking the right questions is likelier to result in better analysis of the present and future, so let’s list them:
a) Was the decision to leave the party a planned decision, or one made in the madness of the moment?
Mahathir built himself as a malay ultra, and there were two phases in his life. One as a rising star and two as prime minister. Being PM for such a long time, he built a sense of infallibility about himself. Erring is not a problem, as control of government tools and the media, allowed him to qualify his outbursts later. This one might be one he cannot retract, and maybe one auto-play he might reject in hindsight.
b) Is the Mahathir viable to follow, for those wanting to break into power?
For the Muhyiddins and Khir Toyos of the world, breaking into the elitist top echelon in UMNO is limited to those with blue blood or money, and therefore less probable using the standard path. Just like long distance runners, they have to make a break while the pack is following a standard pace. Do they make their move now? Not in quitting the party, but in challenging Badawi now, since most of the members would welcome a challenge now. They might surprise me.
c) What of Mukhriz Mahathir?
Daddy’s gone, staying on makes you look a little shady. He has to either support and leave the party, or denounce his father and stay in the party. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Mahathir in leaving the party, has stated the inability of the party leadership under Badawi, and Mukhriz is a willing member of that leadership as Treasurer of UMNO Youth. Therefore he believes in the party, if not the leader of the party. And his father does not, by quitting it. You can’t be for the party, if you support people quitting it, can you? However all precedents shows that Mukhriz is unlikely to react with any fire to the situation, since the final analysis will have Mukhriz as a pretty docile character.
d) What will Badawi do to Mahathir now?
The man has quit the party, no more can Badawi go on with, I respect the man I replaced, but we have to agree to disagree. That would just make Badawi look even weaker. He has to openly express his indignation, and show that the party does implode when lifetime members resign from the party. Mahathir was quick to consign Hussein Onn to the fringes of Malaysian politics quickly and decisively. This is a good time for Badawi to use what power he has mainstream media and party apparatus to deactivate the Mahathir machinery. But will he?
e) How about the Mahathir fan club members in UMNO?
There are swathes of people who have openly expressed their constant admiration and support for Mahathir, not surprisingly from Puteri UMNO members. What do you do now, when you idol has severed his links with the party most unceremoniously?
Time for serious thinking for a lot of people, and maybe a time for the decisive to take a lead.