The die has been cast and the various permutations will be played out, but one thing is certain – there is an by-election in 60 days.
And in that lies the immediate quandary for Abdullah Badawi, or those acting on his behalf. Do we make him campaign openly for his return to Parliament, or let him stay in a dim prison while his proxies campaign?
What will you do Pak Lah?
The Anwar game
As I have always stated, the man may be someone you like or loathe, but he is a maverick nevertheless, and the Malaysian political landscape would be duller without him.
For Badawi his former boss Anwar is a tricky proposition. It is easy to forget, exactly ten years ago Anwar was giving instructions to the current PM, DPM and most of the cabinet.
BN struggles because Anwar always sets the timetable – and that is annoying. For those in power.
If this were a board game, then BN own the game, the little add-ons and even the table the game is playing it on. But Anwar always holds the dice – whether he is in prison or not. So I suppose this is why many of my colleagues believes he is a sneaky fellow. But how else would you beat BN, who were sneaky since the day they forced the leftist out of the party in the forties.
If Anwar campaigns openly, the outcome is not even a debate. Unless BN bring in 20,000 postal votes into Permatang Pauh, Anwar will win. The BN will be in a tactical quagmire.
They only know how to win a by-election by pouring in money.
I mean, you are not going to send Syed Hamid Albar or Najib to go an speak – they won’t make it past the toll station. Badawi would rather join the circus than stand in-front of a hostile Penang crowd. BN has only two MPs in Penang, and both of them are ministers. Neither is going to boast of his amazing support base back home.
But this time, the money will hurt them. Everyone thinks they are corrupt and the media is just waiting for them to do exactly that. Plus PKR will be asking people to take the money and not vote BN anyway. This is a 26 year old stronghold, and as with most of Malaysia would have 70 percent of its voters below 50 years old. They only ever voted for the Anwar family over that time. It is a generation of Anwar-ism.
Second, who will be the candidate. Sending an unknown in a general election is understandable, but not putting an heavyweight in a by-election facing the leader of the opposition front is tantamount to the Barisan Nasional saying they are scared. It will be a public admission of fear.
So, who then? It has to be an Umno candidate – it only ever been Umno candidates there.
With the Umno assembly looming at the end of the year, which bigwig wants to lose to Anwar? The obvious candidate would be Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir. His petition in Kulim pends, but he is both a young firebrand and clear cut racist by threatening to burn down the Chinese Assembly Hall. Plus he is a Kedahan and local to the general area. It would fit into the party’s vision of creating more out and out Malay candidates with a race undertone.
Force the issue on whether Malays really want a Ketuanan Rakyat or not. Even in a loss they can claim they have hurt Anwar’s Malay credential, and that he is actually leading a Pakatan made of non-Malays.
But would Abdul Aziz want to do it? If Anwar wins and goes on to the premiership, the ex-deputy head of Umno youth who was eased out by Khairy Jamaluddin would be thinking – was I just a pawn? Why get myself in the middle of this, when I can plan my own progress in the party at the party elections?
The other candidate has to be Ezam Mohd Nor. But Ezam won’t. There are not enough people who like him in the party yet, and his aim would be Supreme Council seat at party elections. Plus Malay unity cannot be an issue with the lad, since everyone will focus on him being a turncoat.
He will obviously say he won’t rule it out, but he’ll be telling party insiders he won’t stand.
So who is left? Only profile guy with no parliamentary and state seat is Muhammad Muhd Taib. Mike Tyson has put himself as the president’s man, and perhaps this could the ultimately sacrifice or a path back to real politics.
That is the Umno side, pretty dry. So the other option is send Anwar to prison.
This would be the desperation play. Keep Anwar locked in and let Pakatan collapse. Increase the offers to PAS, and let the cookie crumble.
It might be the last major thing Badawi does before he before his departure.
If Anwar wins despite being in prison, it will be a matter of time before in parliament the motion of no-confidence is passed and with an actual prime minister in waiting the Borneo line will collapse.
A man who can defy the BN lords from behind prison will appear strong to the majority of MPs and they will desert Badawi.
This is not a good time for the prime minister, but perhaps a fine time for a future prime minister.