Lady doctor in the wings

The person who comes closest to capturing the public imagination is the woman who stood by the opposition leader when her husband fell from grace.

The country is in the mood for change. There are many capable politicians in the opposition alliance who can take over the reins of government. But their different political beliefs and controversial views on many issues, especially on religion, may put off people and cost them precious votes. A woman, perhaps?

Free Malaysia Today

The opposition is riding high following the acquittal of its supreme leader on a sodomy charge and it senses that the tide is turning rapidly in its favour. All along its campaign tagline is that the trial was a sham and politically motivated. The verdict seems to vindicate its stand. The main protagonist now wants to march on the Big Fortress and topple his persecutor. Not so fast. The road to Putrajaya is long and winding. It is not easy to demolish the great wall. This sober assessment from one of the opposition leaders is more realistic than all the euphoric predictions of the rise of a new centre of power. The path may be cleared for the rejunevated rivals to claim the moral high ground, but the task is daunting.

The “wounded animal” is still bent on destroying the political career of the re-energised opposition leader. The sodomy ghost can still be resurrected and a long spell behind bars is still a distinct possibility. A new steamy case can also be filed over the other alleged sex escapade, which has the potential of damaging the accused beyond repair. Then again, replaying the sex theme may not work to the advantage of the harasser. A surfeit of sordid sex tales may cause a strong public backlash. When the country’s top CEO is himself no angel, fighting a battle purely on moral grounds may not be good strategy. It may not be in the public interest to drag a public figure through the mud again.

Considering that the stakes are high, the 55-year-old “ruler” may target other weak spots in the opposition’s armour. It may raise the spectre of hudud to put the fear of an Islamic state in non-Muslims. It may exploit the internal rift and dissension in the other camp to dent its shield of unity.

It may accuse any strong opposition member of waging war against the king simply to get rid of any credible threat to its authority. On its own initiative, it may throw one or two tainted ministers into the lion’s den to appease the cry for justice. The “old man” knows that public distrust of the government is running high, especially in the wake of the sodomy verdict. The “hero” must be stopped at all cost.

In the meantime, the hero is using public sympathy to his advantage. He portrays himself as a victim who has suffered many years of trial and tribulation. He has had enough of the ill-treatment meted out to him and his family and wants to stay focused on his political mission. He has convinced himself that he is the wave of the future. Not so fast. The people may not hand over to him the victory trophy despite his prime ministerial material. They may have other ideas about the moral standing of the man. A leader must be as squeaky clean as possible to occupy the highest office in the land. It is impossible to govern when the dark clouds still hang over him. All the “washings” in the court cannot erase the fact that the man do have some moral problems.