Why I think BN will not contest the Penanti by-election

By Vijay Kumar Murugavell

In my opinion BN is most likely to boycott the Penanti (N12) by elections primarily because it's a PKR stronghold and it will be yet another humiliating defeat for BN that has already suffered a string of by-election defeats since the last general elections.

First, let us look at the following statements:-

1) The initial response by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on 18th April, 2009 is that the ruling coalition was mulling its options as the by-election was wasteful and to cool down the overheated political climate.

2) The very next day, the MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said “We are prepared to give a walkover because we want to focus on the common good for the nation". He further opined in his blog, “We are too politicized to a point that we forget the meaning of democracy. It is not a show of strength or a tool to satisfy one’s private agenda".

3) On the very same day at a function organized by the Raub Umno Youth, Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Barisan Nasional (BN) should contest the Penanti state seat in Penang failing which "BN members and supporters in the area would be disappointed besides it would spoil the spirit and dignity of past party champions".

4) Just prior to all these statements, former Selangor Menteri Besar Khir "Disneyland" Toyo opined in his blog that it is a waste of time and resources among other incredulous pronouncements including a suggestion that Anwar should contest the seat    http://www.drkhir.com/2009/04/apa-kata-anwar-bertanding-di-dun.html. He lamented the frequency of by-elections that he said interfered with general administration and took away the focus of handling the economic situation.

5) Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim also welcomed Datuk Seri Najib’s suggestion, saying he was happy if BN did not contest.

Najib's reasons become untenable in the backdrop of questionable expenditure especially with mark-ups and commissions paid for military hardware and other expenditure where no open tenders where called and purchase prices were way above market.

Arguably, the most heated topic in the Malaysian political scene currently is BN's power grab in Perak that has led to a constitutional impasse that shows no sign of abating. Tempers are flaring and the Monarchy has been dragged into the fray. Many constitutional experts are of the opinion that the only way out is to dissolve the state assembly and call for fresh elections.

BN refuses to do this. As such, statements about "cooling" the political climate provide fodder for cynicism. He had done nothing to rein in UMNO factions who played the Pakatan State government against the Sultan when the former were just articulating their constitutional rights.

MB Nizar and team never asked for power to be returned to them unconditionally but merely asked for the stalemate to be ended by letting the voters decide. BN on the other hand is saying that the legitimacy of power is theirs.

Even the most gullible (with the exception of hardcore BN supporters) are not going to buy the story that the Pakatan Perak government is power hungry.

Ong Tee Keat led the campaign charge at the Permatang Pauh by-elections on behalf of MCA as MCA's vice-president, where BN suffered a thumping defeat. He was more cautious in the Kuala Terrengganu by-elections where he said, "This by-election should not be used to gauge MCA's standing in the Chinese community". While making that disclaimer, he played DAP against PAS on the Hudud issue http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsktelect.php?id=382671 

So it is utter hypocrisy to talk about "too much politics" when he has played up on heated issues like hudud hoping to woo Chinese voters. The Irony of his trepidation to face by elections now is that he may very well trigger one in Labis as he continues to treat his number two shabbily.

Tun Dr.Mahathir seems to directly contradict Najib on this issue. We would be very naive to think that Dr.M and Najib did not meet up and confer on this before publicly giving dissenting views. That's why I think that this is deliberate spin.

Remember Mathias Chang? He opined that BN should boycott the Permatang Pauh by-elections; and when BN candidate Ariff Shah was trounced and Pakatan won in the sphere of public opinion, he lambasted UMNO again with an "I told you so'.

BN has never before backed out of a by-election. Therefore I believe this was possibly engineered by Mathias Chang who is closely tied to Dr. M.

I suspect Dr. M pretends to have a different opinion. In the end Najib will prevail and all will say that Najib is indeed not beholden to Dr.M.

When I pointed out this possibility since two weeks ago, many thought it was my overactive imagination. Then recently on Labor Day 01 May 2009, Mathias Chang said on his blog – "It takes POLITICAL MATURITY and COURAGE to walk away from a tactical fight so as to win the ultimate war. Anyone who has studied the Art of War by the greatest military strategist Sun Tzu will agree that one should only go to battle when victory is a certainty and when we have the overriding advantage and force in all aspects. When we fight, it must be “total victory and a crushing defeat for our opponents”. Nothing less will suffice. Anything less is a waste of time and resources." Source: http://www.futurefastforward.com/component/content/article/1552. With Mahathir in the picture after rejoining UMNO, the more intelligent spin ala  Mathias Chang has come. Pakatan be warned.
Khir Toyo doesn't seem to be coherent in his stand. While he considers Penanti a waste of time and resources, he had no qualms in calling for Elizabeth Wong to step down which would trigger a by-election in Bukit Lanjan, one that BN is assured to lose.

He is saying that while it is acceptable to hold office amidst accusations of corruption, it is not acceptable to hold office on unsubstantiated accusations of lapses in personal morals. I suppose he has to take this stand as if one were to use accusations of corruption as a benchmark, then Khir Toyo himself should resign.

His assertation that Anwar engineered the Penanti by-election for political gains do not hold water as they could have easily done so with Bukit Lanjan, seeing that Elizabeth Wong had tendered her resignation. The Pakatan leadership however decided not to accept her resignation.
Anwar Ibrahim personally does not seem to be spoiling for a fight with BN though many Pakatan supporters are. His supporters cannot be blamed as defeating BN is their only effective form of showing protest as all other legitimate avenues for exercising political dissent are unfairly curtailed.

The 5 by-elections past
Many, especially from the BN faction, have lamented that we have had an unprecedented number of by-elections since the last general elections. Some in a knee-jerk response are now calling for new laws to curtail this. Let us take a brief look at what triggered these by-elections:-
Kuala Terrengganu, Bukit Gantang & Batang Ai
– Death of assemblymen by natural causes, something all parties agree is an unavoidable factor. Having said that, I do not recall any other time in history when 3 assemblymen died within 1 year of their 5 year term, do you? Perhaps the Health Ministry should consider a healthcare plan for all 222 assemblymen. 
Permatang Pauh – Most citizens, if not all including some foreign correspondents, knew (and had written) that Dr Wan Azizah was Anwar's proxy in this constituency. Some within BN had repeated the "Anwar is not a factor" mantra but suspiciously the general elections was called on March 08, 2009 just a month or so before Anwar was eligible to contest.

This left him no choice but to enter Parliament via a by-election after Wan Azizah stepped down to make way for her husband whose seat she was holding in trust for the voters of Permatang Pauh.

This could have been avoided if BN accommodated Anwar to contest in the general elections instead of feigning surprise when the time came for a by-election at Permatang Pauh.
Bukit Selambau
– Assemblyman V. Arumugam resigned on February 9, 2009 triggering a by-election.
The reasons why Arumugam quit was appended in a statutory declaration which he wrote. In the declaration, he stated that he no longer could stand threats he had been receiving from certain parties besides alleged attempts from people claiming to represent the Barisan Nasional (BN) who offered him up to RM5 million to cross over to the coalition.

He also demanded that past police reports he made on this be looked into. He also claimed that he and his family had been harassed a number of times since last year’s general election despite declining the offers.

The mainstream media and BN factions played up the theory that Arumugam is embroiled in a morality issue for allegedly marrying another woman through customary rites without divorcing his wife. While playing up the infidelity claims the statutory declaration was ignored.

If indeed it was infidelity, why has his whole family disappeared? How can he fabricate police reports lodged soon after the general elections?
So there we have it – 3 by-elections due to "natural causes" and 2 that point to circumstances most likely created by BN.
In conclusion I doubt very much that BN has the political courage to participate in this by-election and dent it's image further after a hatrick of by-election losses. If BN does decide to participate, they will be taken to task for flip-flopping on initial statements and it will give more fodder to the perception that Najib is beholden to Dr.M.

If they do not contest as I predict, then they are likely to covertly back independent candidate/s while doing spin that Anwar is power hungry and they have more important matters to attend to.

Thus far, all independent candidates in the recent by-elections have lost their deposits without exception. Thus, if an independent manages to retain his deposit at Penanti due to covert support or lack of choice for BN supporters, BN will waste no time in pointing out the fact that this is the first time an independent kept his deposit therefore
Anwar's support has slipped.
I do not think that they would be ruffled for being accused of not having the courage to face the people, because that is what many are telling them in Perak – yet they refuse to seek a referendum from the voters. At the moment they seem unfazed. If a bee sting does not hurt a thick skinned buffalo, it won't worry too much about an antbite.
Vijay Kumar Murugavell
My other writings reside here http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6778953884&ref=mf