The Umno Dilemma

By Hakim Joe 

One of the biggest headaches Umno and its gang of conspirators face is the thought of having to face the next federal elections without a sufficiently large war chest.

All political machines are run on cold hard cash, especially the type of campaign organized by Barisan Nasional. However, since the Political Tsunami of 2008, this technique of securing vital votes has proven woefully ineffective as illustrated in the recent Sibu by election. The slowly maturing voters of Malaysia are no longer only concerned by mere economics and sufficiently satisfied with the crumbs that is leisurely doled out but of other pertinent issues including impartial governance, human rights, civil liberties, meritocracy based promotions, equal opportunities, transparent management, and etcetera.  

With the Sarawak state elections still pending and as one of the “safe deposit” states that BN desperately needs to win, the notion of having to fund this state election before the federal elections does nothing to alleviate the predicament of a depleting war chest. Regardless of what the law states in pertinent to the maximum amount a political party can spend in an election, each constituency costs around RM20 million to RM50 million to fund and with a potential of 62 seats being contested, the cost to fund this state elections will probably cost between RM640 million and RM1.6 billion, assuming that only the simple majority of 32 seats are funded. 

Perhaps this is why our esteemed PM has subtly indicated that he is considering only calling for the federal elections and not the state elections as there are only 222 parliamentary seats as compared to 727 combined state and parliamentary seats. If that is the case, this means that the next federal elections will definitely be held way before the 2013 dateline as a buffer is needed between holding the federal and the state elections. 

This is actually a good tactical move for the government as it pools all their available resources into a last-gasp all-out fight for political supremacy. It is all about the federal government and nothing else as BN can afford to lose all the thirteen states but still remain in control if they are able to retain Putrajaya. 

Let’s work the figures. Assuming that it costs RM20 million per constituency. That is RM4.44 billion if only the federal elections are held as compared to RM14.54 billion if all elections are held simultaneously, and we are talking bare minimum. If we were to adopt the hypothetical upper threshold of RM50 million per constituency, these figures balloon to between RM11.1 billion and RM36.35 billion and even that is no guarantee of success. 

Perhaps Petronas has indicated that with the falling oil prices, their unaccounted profits are no longer there. Maybe it is because the jewel state of the crown is governed by Pakatan or perchance it is because there are no longer any big time member-contributors anymore. Most likely it is because the recent numerous by elections have somehow exhausted this war chest as BN unsuccessfully tries to utilize these opportunities to regain its two-thirds majority in Parliament. 

It therefore becomes imperative that BN wins the next federal elections at all cost and the only plausible way for them to do that is with a sufficiently large war chest with a hope that the recent by election losses are all rare abnormalities. Additionally, with such importance tagged to it, it will definitely be a dirty fight to the end.