Choosing politics over results

Kajang by-election

When will our politicians move on from the business of politicking and finally come to the business of governing Malaysia?

By Adam Reza, FMT

The year is 2014, fresh from GE13 last May, fresh from a by-election in Sungai Limau in Kedah and right after the Umno elections – which is widely considered to be the ultimate display of Malay centric politics on steroids, and one could be forgiven for thinking that political crazy season was over.

And just as we were ready to move on from all the skull drudgery that comes with elections, political crazy season is back.

Once again, Malaysians will have to bear with more politicking in the form of yet another by-election that will potentially cost Malaysian taxpayers RM2 million.

This time, the stage is set in Kajang, and it follows the resignation of the youthful and Azmin Ali-linked Lee Chin Cheh. To add to this, Anwar Ibrahim is set to be fielded as PKR’s candidate in the by-elections and this move is widely slated as a means to pave the way for Anwar to become the next Menteri Besar of Selangor.

All this is set to occur with increasingly fragile interfaith relations, declining education standards and rising living costs in the backdrop, which begs the question, when will our politicians move on from the business of politicking and finally come to the business of governing Malaysia?

That aside, the political situation in Selangor has been quite the roller coaster ride recently and has seen a power struggle develop between the current Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and PKR deputy president Azmin.

While tensions have flared in the past, many chose to not take it too seriously, with Azmin often described as a petulant spoiled child in this conflict. But more importantly, many did not consider Azmin to be a serious threat as Khalid has always seemed to have the solid backing of the people of Selangor and coalition partners DAP and PAS.

Thus, the news that Anwar is tipped to replace Khalid as MB in the likely event that he wins in Kajang came as a shock to many.

Despite Khalid’s lack of political acumen, he has excelled as an administrator of the state. When this former CEO of PNB took over as Menteri Besar of Selangor in 2008, he was bequeathed with a Selangor that was ridden with deficits and debts.

In 2013, the situation had been completely overturned. The Selangor government delivered a balanced budget with reserves of RM2.8 billion, the highest amount in nearly 30 years.

Given the stunning results delivered by the man who orchestrated the return of Guthrie to Malaysian hands when he was at the helm of PNB, it seems as if it does not make sense to replace this man.

As the saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Tactical nous?

The only major explanation for this debacle was put forward by PKR director of strategies Rafizi Ramli.

Regarding the costs of holding the by-election, his way of making up for the hard-earned tax dollars that will be spent to hold this election was by saying “I’m sorry” – as you do – and by describing this as a mere manoeuvre in a “scheme” or “game” that has been dubbed the “Kajang Move”, as if to prove that tactical nous had been employed in its design.

He pointed out the need to fortify Pakatan’s hold on Selangor and thus shield it from being taken over by Umno.

The last time I heard, there is no political resurgence within Umno. Furthermore, the last GE saw Pakatan Rakyat add eight seats in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly, claiming the scalps of political heavyweights such as Zin Mohamed along the way.

Post-GE and public attitude towards BN has deteriorated, with a survey by Merdeka Center showing that more people are increasingly unhappy with BN’s leadership under the PM.

Considering both BN’s dampening appeal, coupled with Khalid’s transformation of the state, Rafizi’s justification simply does not add up.