Najib’s great task ahead


A politically-weary public and the legion of detractors and doubters make for a veritable minefield.

IT DOES not take a rocket scientist to see that incoming Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has a humongous task ahead of him.

There is no red carpet being rolled out for him as he enters the highest office in the land. No drums and trumpets, no kompang and bunga manggar to greet him.

In fact, Najib is entering a veritable minefield. The nature of the job at hand requires him to hit the ground running, and putting the wrong foot forward could prove very costly.

He faces a politically-weary public that probably has never been as demanding and uncompromising as it is today. That’s not to mention the legion of detractors and doubters who will have no qualms pouncing on the slightest hint of a misstep on his part.

It is indeed a tough crowd out there. And Najib has the unenviable task of winning of them over.

He has already crossed the first major hurdle towards that goal.

While it has not pleased everybody, the new Umno leadership line-up thrust upon the party’s new president by delegates to the general assembly last week provides a substantial level of potential for Najib to work with.

Just as important are the reforms Najib announced to try and effectively tackle the incidence and perception of money politics that hang heavy in the air around Umno like a disagreeable odour.

No longer will the fate of the party, and to a large degree that of the nation, rest in the hands of a few – to be precise, less than 0.1% of Umno’s three-million strong membership, and a statistically negligible proportion of the 28 million people who call this land their tanah tumpah darah.

And no longer will a near-insurmountable wall be erected in front of those who wish to contest the top posts in the party.

The expanded party electorate and the reduction in nomination quotas will have the effect of promoting a healthy democratic culture within Umno.

It will encourage those with talent and potential to offer themselves without having to resort to, or be held back by, unsavoury political practices.

The net result will be that no Umno president will need ever again plead for a team of lieutenants that the rest of the country can look up to.

Najib faces a another major challenge in the coming days, and it is not necessarily the three by-elections in Bukit Selambau, Bukit Gantang and Batang Ai.

While victory for Barisan Nasional in the consitituencies concerned would give the coalition’s and Najib’s standing as Prime Minister a considerable boost, it does little to the political equation at both the federal and state levels.

Its impact on the greater public perception of the effectiveness of a Barisan Nasional government is debatable.

Winning those by-elections will not necessarily mean that people are happy with a Najib-led Government, as he would hardly have been able to deliver much, having been in office for only few days.

Defeat will also not necessarily mean the people have become more upset.

Regardless of the outcome of the three by-elections, the next important item on Najib’s agenda is the selection of ministers who will make up his Cabinet. This is just as important as the efforts that will be instituted to “clean up” Umno.

Barisan success at the by-elections would signify that there is at least hope once more in the ruling coalition. The naming of a strong and credible Cabinet line-up will send out a message that, that hope is not misplaced.

The act of winning will need to be quickly followed by the act of delivering, so as to reinforce a potential turning of the tide and transform it into a wave of positivity.

To do otherwise would only be opening the door to the sort of backlash received by the previous administration after it failed to meet the high expectations that came on the back of the results of the 2004 general election.

A less than sterling performance at the polls next week would make the formation of a stellar Cabinet even more crucial in efforts to regaining strong support for Barisan.

Little else would elicit as much dismay and make things much worse as a response that, rightly or wrongly, strengthens suspicions and fears and launches a barrage of I-told-you-so’s.

Granted, there are certain political requirements to be considered in forming a Cabinet. But backs are getting closer to the wall and the hour is getting late.

Najib needs to come out swinging if he is to accomplish the task of giving hope, eliciting pride and inspiring confidence in Malaysia among its people once more.