Now Najib is talking

Forget about the seats for the meantime. Stop arguing about quotas. It is not about getting one-third share or equal share of the seats. Show us your candidates first. Then figure out where these people are best suited to contest based on winnability. Then ask for that seat for that candidate.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

I have already mentioned in my previous postings that I met Tan Sri Sunusi Junid three times thus far in Manchester. Twice it was in my home and I must admit that we had most interesting discussions in all those occasions that we met.

I also mentioned that we also discussed the independent candidate initiative and that Saunsi said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has spoken to him about the same thing. This was before I announced the launching of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) and soon after that when I announced the launching of the MCLM many interpreted it as meaning that the MCLM is Dr Mahathir’s idea.

I suppose we can’t blame some of the more simple-minded readers. They simplify things with the logic that a duck swims so if you also swim then you must be a duck.

Now read Bernama’s report below about what Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said on Sunday. Some of the things he said were what I too have said. In fact, Dr Chandra Muzaffar also said some of these things back in 1999 at the time when he was the Deputy President of PKR, then called PKN (Parti Keadilan Nasional).

What Dr Chandra said in 1999 was that the opposition should not be obsessed with the numbers game. The opposition then (called Barisan Alternatif before the formation of Pakatan Rakyat in 2008) was locked in seat negotiations and it appeared like the negotiations were breaking down. At one stage PKR, PAS, DAP and PRM (the four members of Barisan Alternatif) were even contemplating abandoning the opposition coalition and going solo.

This would have meant three-, four- or more-corner fights all over the place — Barisan Nasional versus two, three or four opposition candidates. At the eleventh hour they came to a compromise but even then in some constituencies (in both 1999 and 2004) there were some three-corner (plus more) contests when some opposition candidates stood as ‘independents’.

Invariably, in these seats that saw many-corner fights, Barisan Nasional won and the opposition plus ‘independents’ not only lost but lost their deposits as well.

The issue that Dr Chandra raised was that seat negotiations should not be merely a numbers game. It is not about carving the 222 parliament and more then 500 state seats into three or four equal parts. It should be about the winnibality of the candidates they want to field in those seats.

Why demand one-third or one-fourth of the seats merely to get an equal share. Can you actually win those seats that you are going to contest in?

The 2008 general election was a case in point. The three opposition parties spent so much time arguing and quarrelling over the number of seats they wanted. Finally they got the numbers they demanded but after getting the seats they found they had no suitable candidates for those seats. So many candidates had to contest two seats (one parliament and one state) or they simply ‘picked candidates from the streets’, so to speak, and fielded them in the seats they now owned.

Of course, the opposition did not really think it would win those seats anyway so never mind if the candidates were ‘half past six’ candidates. The problem is they won many of these seats they never thought they were going to win. So they ended up with ‘half past six’ parliamentarians and state assemblypersons.

And the rest is now history. The opposition saw a ‘frog festival’ in the aftermath of the 2008 general election.

What Dr Chandra (in 1999), Dr Mahathir (according to Sanusi) and Najib said (according to Bernama below) is that they should look at the winnability of these candidates. It should not be just about ‘filling in the blanks’. Just because you happen to ‘own’ those seats you scramble to find candidates to fill those seats and any Ahmad, Wong and Param will do.

Now, you have to work bottom up, not top down. You reverse your selection process or work backwards. You first look for the good candidates. You make sure that these candidates fulfill the winnability criteria. THEN you go look for the best seat for this candidate.

If you start with the seats (divide 222 parliament seats and 555 state seats by three), then you start looking for candidates, you might embark on a ‘filling in the blanks’ exercise. But if you work on the candidates first and then you find you have only 50 good parliamentary candidates and 100 good state candidates you demand 50 parliament seats and 100 state seats rather than 80 parliament seats and 180 state seats.

The next quarrel would be where those seats are. If you have already decided which seat you want to contest then you would be forced to find a candidate for that seat. But if you work backwards, which means you already have a candidate suitable for a particular seat, then you talk about that seat based on the candidate you have rather than you want that seat (even though you do not have a candidate) because you want your fair share of seats based on what you feel should be your quota.

If Najib focuses on the winnability of the candidates and then work backwards to look for suitable/matching seats for these candidates (compared to the opposition that gets the seats first and solve the problem of candidates later) then Barisan Nasional is going to do better than Pakatan Rakyat come the next election.

This is what the MCLM is trying to preach.

Forget about the seats for the meantime. Stop arguing about quotas. It is not about getting one-third share or equal share of the seats. Show us your candidates first. Then figure out where these people are best suited to contest based on winnability. Then ask for that seat for that candidate.


BN wants winnable candidates in next election, says Najib

(Bernama) — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he will exercise his rights as Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman to veto potential candidates to ensure only winnable ones become BN candidates in the next election.

He said the matter would be discussed with the Sarawak BN leaders to get a consensus on the principle of winnable candidates, especially within the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), in view of the coming state election.

“This is an important principle because when we field a candidate, it means the candidate is representing the BN and we need the candidate to win because we want to form the government,” he told a news conference after officiating at the SUPP convention, themed “Berjuang Untuk Rakyat” (Fighting for the People) at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here, Sunday.

Ensuring that the nominated candidates would also be accepted by the people in that particular constituency was the only way for the SUPP to remain relevant in order to regain the eight out of 19 seats it lost in the 2006 state election, Najib said.

Based on that principle, he said, all the BN component parties in the state should vet their potential candidates not only based on their positions in their parties but also to analyse much deeper to see if there were other options.

Earlier Najib told the 6,000-strong delegates that he wanted SUPP to submit names of candidates who are able to win in the coming election, adding, “Please give me winnable candidates, I don’t care whether they are old, new or middle-aged as long as they can win.”

In the party’s bid to revive and inject new blood, he said SUPP, which mostly represented the urban areas, needed to engage, understand and feel the pulse of the people and protect their interests.

He said the BN leadership would give SUPP the support and space it needed as long as it was sensible and matured in its ways without making statements that might upset the other state component parties.

“Speak to me or the state BN chairman Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. We have solve many problems, including the land issue for which Sarawak has the cheapest land premium in the country,” he said.

“But you (SUPP) cannot keep on demanding without responding. You must respond because we cannot keep on giving without getting any support for the BN,” he said, in obvious reference to requests such as for more federal allocation for Chinese and mission schools, small and medium industries and state land for agricultural purposes that were put forward by SUPP President Tan Sri Dr George Chan.

In dealing with today’s society, which emphasised more on the quality of life, he suggested that the SUPP form a cyber unit to connect with the young people, especially sophisticated urban dwellers, in articulating urban-related issues, including housing and flood mitigations.

“Yes, we lost the cyber war in the last election but what are we doing about it?” he said.

He added that the young people were not anti-establishment, judging from the response received on his Facebook account, which has 500,000 fans so far, and the #tanyanajib Twitter account, which chalked up the fifth most popular trending topic on the microblogging site.

The prime minister said as the party which the BN relied on to get the support from the urban community, SUPP needed to understand the needs of such a complex society, which neither depend on politics of development nor politics of approving allocation as what happened in the Sibu by-election.

“Just announcing a few million ringgit for Chinese schools during the by-election did not guarantee support from the Chinese,” he said, refering to the BN’s defeat to the DAP in Sibu.

Najib is confident, however, that the SUPP, through the process of “muhasabah” (soul searching), political transformation, cooperation and support from the other three component parties in Sarawak, would become a force to be reckoned with.