A hollow victory for BN

By Baradan Kuppusamy (The Malaysian Insider)

FEB 4 — The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Perak government is all but gone after three PKR representatives and a DAP assemblyman defected, in a dramatic development that has shaken the alliance of PKR, Pas and DAP.

More defections from PR are still rumoured in the days ahead as a BN-controlled state government in Perak takes shape.

Other defection in other states also cannot be ruled out, political insiders said, adding the “coup” in Perak has generated a “take over” momentum.

The loss of Perak is a major boost for Umno and BN but it comes through unsavoury defections of elected assemblymen and without the participation of the people who had elected them.

In that sense the “capture” of Perak by BN is a hollow victory.

The people who voted for PR would likely remain loyal to the coalition because of the major changes the alliance had effected in the short 10 months they had ruled the state.

Their transparency, accountability and their emphasis on long neglected communities and the effort, fought by BN, to give freehold titles to new villagers had all endeared the PR coalition to the voters.

It would be an uphill task for the “unreformed BN” to emulate these measures while voters would be watching closely whether the BN returns to its “bad old ways” by undoing the changes.

Ironically, this is the very kind of hollow victory that the Pakatan Rakyat and its undisputed leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his allies in the DAP and PAS had spend a good part of their energies to engineer after winning big on March 8, 2008.

But the BN has managed to get ahead of them and pulled the carpet from under their feet, at least in Perak.

After such a dramatic change one cannot expect a newly-energised Umno and BN not to hunt in other Pakatan-ruled states for assemblymen to defect and stage a Perak-style coup.

For Najib the “coup” is a major personal victory as he prepares to take over from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi in March and stamp his mark on Umno and the country.

It is additionally sweet as he has upstaged his arch rival Anwar and at the latter’s own defection game.

The fact that Anwar’s buddy, Bota assemblyman Datuk Nasaruddin Hashim, rejoined Umno after defecting to PKR just 10 days ago is really an insult to democracy and parliamentary elections.

It is a bitter pill for Anwar to swallow and a major cause for embarrassment for PKR and their supporters.

It is also a bitter pill for the DAP which had fought long and hard to win Perak only to lose it within a year of victory.

There was deep shock and total silence at a gathering of DAP members here while they watched Najib’s press conference announcing the defections over television.

Next to him was one of their own — state assembly deputy speaker Hee Yit Foong, who is also Jelapang assemblyman.

Bitterness, and anger, was plainly written on their faces.

With the defections, the current seat distribution in the Perak state assembly is BN 28, Pakatan 28 and 3 Independents who are however expected to vote with BN on issues.

“BN has 28 seats, equal with Pakatan Rakyat but we have three extra who are friendly to Umno and BN,” Najib said.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, who had an audience with the Sultan today, said he had requested for dissolution of the state assembly to pave the way for a new state election.

While the Sultan considers this request Najib said he would go to the Palace soon to announce that the BN has a majority and was ready to form a new BN government without fresh state elections.

It is likely that an emergency session of the State Assembly would be convened to take a confidence vote to confirm the majority and after that a new government would be formed.

The DAP has some soul searching to do — especially why Hee defected and whether the persistent infighting in the Perak DAP is a cause.

The political atmosphere in Perak remains highly charged and rumours of more defections — from both PKR and DAP — is still rife.

It is left to be seen whether the “new” BN government would really be new or a rehash of the old Umno-centred BN whose arrogance and highhandedness had alienated voters.