China, Umno and commanding victory

AS THE nation is getting warmed up for the polls, Umno leaders repeated their ardent hankering for a commanding victory. They argued that only Barisan Nasional (BN), with a clear and commanding majority, will deliver stability and progress for the nation.

In many of their speeches even before the Parliament was dissolved, Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and fellow party leaders could be heard inserting the word “commanding” to describe the victory they yearn for in the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15).

Now, the time for reckoning is here. On Nov 19, Malaysia will elect a new federal government.

Will Umno and the BN get a clear, commanding victory when votes are tallied for the 222 parliamentary seats?

The 76-year-old Umno goes into the polls beleaguered. Never in its history has it hit such lows. A president facing a corruption trial and a party riddled with factions.

But don’t be mistaken. It is far from a goner. The party still packs a punch.

Across the South China Sea, a leader of an even older political party was also looking at getting a commanding victory. The 101-year-old Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has just concluded its twice-in-a-decade gathering that paves the way for much that will happen in China.

Xi Jinping was elected as the CCP secretary general with no visible signs of dissent. It was an absolute and commanding victory. The scenes of Xi, who is also China’s president, transport you to a scene from the “Star Wars” series.

A particular scene from the CCP central congress sent shivers down the spine of China watchers. On the final day, former China President Hu Jintao was escorted out of the room in the full glare of the congress participants, with Xi seated stoically throughout the whole affair. The Western media went to town with that moment.

Almost at the snap of the finger, commentators pumped out the narrative that Xi was out to cull his opponents, and that the incident marked Xi’s absolute power grab. They screamed dictatorship. Later, as more videos emerged, the story changed a little. Hu may not have been in the best of health, after all.

But let us not be mistaken. Xi has placed himself firmly and resolutely in the power seat. At the congress, he clearly outlined where China is going in the coming years. There is a sense of direction. You cannot blame the Chinese for being excited for what they perceived to be in store for the nation with the world’s largest population.

On the home front, we have Umno wanting to exert its dominance. This party has played a major role in the course of the nation since Independence in 1957. Four years ago, it was ditched by voters at GE14, leaving it out in the cold. But, thankfully for Umno, they came back to power in a bewildering power play. Codeword: Sheraton Move.

And, now, Ahmad Zahid wants the Malay-based party to once again firmly control the power levers of the nation. He wants a dominant Umno.

Just like China, Ahmad Zahid is yearning for dominance. But there is a stark difference in the yearning for dominance between China and Umno.

China is looking at advancing the nation, pushing forward its global political might, propelling its economic prowess and putting the country on a stronger pedestal. You cannot quarrel with communism and China’s guided dictatorship, but you cannot fault them for prodding the nation for ward.

What about Umno?

The yearning for dominance is for them to regain leadership, and not so much about propelling the nation for ward. We don’t hear of concrete plans to steer the nation towards making the next leap. We don’t see credible and believable plans to repair the nation.

We hear about the notion of bringing about stability, but that’s pure politics. Ahmad Zahid’s dominance is all about brute access to power to allow them to do as they will. And there is a huge suspicion that it may have something to do with the string of cases that are ongoing at the courts. It’s tough to ignore them.

We desperately need to get the nation out of the pickle that it finds itself in. Let us hope that the GE15 winners — whichever coalition that gets the keys to Putrajaya — will be able to train their thoughts towards making Malaysia strong economically, stable politically and vibrant socially.

Habhajan Singh is the corporate editor at The Malaysian Reserve.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition