A massive, sticky mess

pic by TMR FILE

PEEL off the layers of intricacies and intrigues surrounding the Johor polls, and it will be obvious that the crux of the matter centres on kleptocrats trying to make a comeback to mainstream politics —nothing more and nothing less.

In fact, the polls are being called a means for the kleptocrats to flex muscles, having succeeded in doing so in Melaka four months ago.

All the other issues are fluff and frivolity, used as distractions to justify the calling of the polls.

If they succeed in Johor as in Melaka, the kleptocrats will feel encouraged and further emboldened for the national polls, win it and reverse all that had made their lives miserable and pick up from where they left after the 2018 general election.

In other words, the kleptocrats are seeking to rediscover their past glory, the glorious days when they were plundering the nation blind unimpeded until they lost the polls.

It can, of course, be argued that the courts had found at least chief among them guilty.

That is exactly the point because the kleptocrat insists he’s not guilty, victimised and unashamedly strutting wide and far despite damning expose and revelations after revelations of his shenanigans in the courts and outside.

Smelling an opportunity for freedom if not redemption through the political arena and somewhat ambivalent about his chances in the courts of law, the kleptocrat and his ilk are throwing in all they can into the ring with an all or nothing zeal.

It is only expected since they are like dead men walking and have nothing to lose any more and everything to gain.

It is that obvious and given the result in Johor in the 2018 polls, there’s no reason for voters in the state who rejected them the last time around or not doing likewise this time around.

It is, however, not that simple.

For all their crimes and excesses, the kleptocrats, being part of a ruling coalition that had ruled the nation for more than six decades, had inherited a political structure that covered the length and breadth of the nation.

And they are adept to utilise this to ensure their continued grip on their electorates and despite the proliferation of communications, they are still able to have a captive audience that could win them any election at any time.

The only time they lost was in the 2018 polls and that too, it took their former leader who was head and shoulders above all others politically, be it in the government or the Opposition.

If the Melaka polls is of essence, it was obvious that the kleptocrats were able to regain the state with an almost same number of votes they secured in the 2018 polls, meaning those who voted for them then were intact.

The Opposition lost ground because of the low turnout and they were not unified.

The kleptocrats are hoping for the same outcome based on the same condition meaning the voter turnout in Johor remains low and the voters on their side in 2018 turn out in full force.

There are, however, opinions that Melaka and Johor cannot be compared to the Opposition’s victory in the former in 2018 were marginal while in Johor, the Opposition’s gain in the last polls were substantial.

Be that as it may, a low turnout can be quite disastrous for the Opposition unless the ones that had voted for the kleptocrats are finally wise of their scheming.

But the failings of the Opposition are not merely confined to the unwavering support for the kleptocrats from a segment of the electorate.

Apart from disunity, the lack of leadership and focus are also very much in play.

On one hand the Opposition had been part of those who denounced the Tan Sri Mahiaddin Md Yassin-led cabinet as a failed government and yet, they signed a memorandum of understanding with his successor Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who retained most of his predecessor’s Cabinet members and even gave Mahiaddin a position with ministerial rank.

And Ismail Sabri is Umno VP, the party which the Opposition had roundly dismissed as the cause of all that ails the nation. Ismail Sabri had not denounced the kleptocrats and in fact, is still perceived to be subservient to the leader of the pack.

This had sent mixed messages to the nations and suspicions to their agenda had caused disaffection to the Opposition from among the voters though they did not necessarily find new affection for the kleptocrats.

Then there are the traitors who were part of the Opposition but ditched them for a collaboration with the kleptocrats and committed it in the name of Malay and Islam. But for those preferring to call a spade a spade, it is only a group led by an overly ambitious man who wanted the nation’s most coveted post.

He lost his post shortly after and today is bitterly opposed to the kleptocrats for betraying him and has now renewed his pre-2018 anti-kleptocrat fervour.

At the same time, he still maintains cordial and professional relations with the prime minister who comes from the party where the kleptocrats revel.

It is now left to the Johor voters to make the right decision and not allow the kleptocrats nor the traitors an opportunity to take a grip on the nation’s politics.

If they too are incapable, it will see the re-emergence of kleptocracy and corruption.

And it can stay on for many-many more years to come.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.