Race to win popularity sweepstakes: Najib struggles to stave off an Umno ouster

Written by Maria Begum, Wong Choon Mei, Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

'Good boy' Chua Soi Lek celebrated the Chinese New Year by ensuring he kept alive his chances of being selected to contest a seat in the upcoming general elections by defending Prime Minister Najib Razak, the Umno president and BN chairman.

The fervor with which the MCA president tried to inject into his case also signals that a desperate Najib, who is facing a growing 'civil war' within his Umno party, might soon resort to manipulated polls to stay one up against his party mates, who are trying to seal a deal to bring him down after the GE-13, if not earlier.

"Soi Lek and Umno can say whatever they wish but it has not helped them much. They can talk themselves up but their support has still been coming down. Polls can be manipulated based on the sample size, location and questions asked. But the point is, this is not so much a psy-war against the Pakatan Rakyat opposition, this is to help Najib convince his own Umno colleagues that he is still popular, indispensable and should not be dumped before GE-13," PKR vice resident Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.

Indeed, the biggest howler from Soi Lek came when he tried too hard to say 'positive' things about Najib, who has been accused of being a laze-about and "good-for-nothing" PM.

“Whether you like Najib or not, he has paid a lot of attention to the economic transformation of the country and all the indicators show that in terms of foreign direct investment, we have done up,” an Umno-linked news portal reported Soi Lek as saying on Tuesday.

Under pressure to be 'popular

Under pressure after unveiling an internationally condemned Budget for 2012 that wasted hundreds of millions in one-off cash aids, Najib finds himself still unable to call for nationwide polls.Time is running out with April 2013 the last date, while Umno must hold their internal polls by October.

To a large part, Najib's desperation has to do with his rising unpopularity within his own Umno party, with more and more colleagues expressing dissatisfaction with his under-performance on the economy and governance but over-politicking on bringing his own men on board top positions to bolster his grip.

To Jui Meng, an ex-MCA vice president who knows Soi Lek well, this latest exhibition of political apple-polishing was to be expected.

"It's just that he is doing it in such a stupid way. The Chinese know what's happening, they are not going to hang around just to help Soi Lek win his ticket to contest by flattering Najib left, right and centre. Maybe Najib is also desperate. He knows Chinese support for him is very low. He may feel it is only right that Soi Lek say something 'nice' about him, but unfortunately, it is not being competently handled," said Jui Meng.

"What people will remember about Najib is his free spending ways. This is a fact. How he tried to cheat world opinion through unethical deals by FBC Media and APCO. How he is always on excessively expensive, overseas trips with huge entourages including his daughter's Kazakstan engagement party and there is the latest Australian shopping spree scandal too. And yet, Soi Lek reminds Malaysians of the Najibs' recalcitrance by bringing up Anwar's trips, which are so modest by comparison. Soi Lek also calls Anwar the 'boy who cried wolf' when Najib is the one called the master of flip flops by any number of analysts and world leaders. I would really question Soi Lek, is he trying to draw an unfavourable comparison for Najib against Anwar? Really, if I were Najib, I would sack Soi Lek for blatant incompetence!"

Incompetent Soi Lek and Nazri

Indeed, the luckless MCA chief had tried to get into the PM's good books by declaring that for sure, Najib was more popular than Anwar. Just days ago, in a copycat sort of move, Najib's spokesman Nazri Aziz had also called Bersih chairwoman Ambiga a "wannabe" "nobody" while he and Najib were elected by the people, and therefore commanded greater respect and cedibility - so Nazri's implication goes.

But the fact is Ambiga is winner of 2 of the world's most prestigious awards - the US Women of Courage Award and the French Knight of the Legion of Honour. To most people in the world, Ambiga is much better known and for good things like bravery and standing up for democracy and human right.

As for Najib, he will be remembered for his personal vanity, under-performance as a PM and Finance minister, the Perak crisis, and for clamping down on the July 9 Bersih rally which drew worldwide attention including rebukes from Washington and the United Nations, although Nazri Aziz insisted it was only an obscure rally 'no one' knew about.

Even if Najib died

So the same goes with Soi Lek's twisting of the facts on Anwar's acquittal. The news was front paged all over the world, a feat that Najib can no where emulate. With all due respect, even if Najib died, the international papers would not carry the news on their front pages.

This is the sure sign that not only in Malaysia, but worldwide, Anwar is already accepted as having the much greater credibility to be the next leader of Malaysia.

However, this is what Soi Lek insisted on.

“To begin with, it has never been a level playing field and all the studies have shown that Najib, on his own, is more popular than Anwar. Their (the opposition’s) own studies also show that. So it never started with the same level playing field,” said the MCA chief.

September 16 was real, Soi Lek

Foolishly, Soi Lek also tried to attack Anwar on the September 16, 2008 incident, wherein Anwar had hoped to gather enough parliamentarians to support the Pakatan Rakyat opposition to take over the federal government.

For various reasons, including counter bribes by Najib and UMNO, Anwar failed to muster enough support as few BN parliamentarians were willing to cut ties openly and were only willing to move in a group. As a result, Anwar was panned for the failure to keep his September 16 promise, with UMNO and BN leaders rushing to call him a liar.

“I think he has been calling bluff too many times. First, they said they would take over. I still remember receiving the SMS that the Agong was going to swear in Anwar as the new PM. So when you cry wolf or fire too many times, there will be a day when you actually catch fire and nobody pays attention to it,” said Soi Lek.

But recent Wikileaks showed that that it was Soi Lek and UMNO who were the real liars, and that September 16 was real. It was the BN that only clung on by the skin of their teeth.

An entry in the US cable showed former Sabah Chief Minister Salleh Said Keruak as telling US embassy officials that potentially more than half of the 25 Sabah MPs were ready to abandon the BN, following the precedent set by the SAPP which had openly pulled out from the ruling coalition.
"Matter-of-factly, Salleh stated that between (eight) and 14 BN MPs (out of Sabah's 25 seats) would leave the BN, naming (five) from Umno and (four) from UPKO, in addition to (two) from SAPP," the cable, dated June 24, 2008, read.

A lack of principled stand

The cable also said that embassy officials found "no expressions of support" for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's leadership among the senior Sabah politicians, after holding a series of meetings from June 18-20 in that state that year.

"This is why I have predicted MCA will fall badly and it will be due to Soi Lek's terrible judgment that will bring MCA down. He completely lacks any principled stand and thinks that the matters and politics of the nation is just about 'spin' from the opposition. When things don't work out as in the NFC debacle, it is opposition 'spin' and September 16 is an Anwar 'lie'," said Jui Meng.

"Where is the acknowledgement of world opinion as to whether there is basis for Sodomy II, where is the acknowledgment that the acquittal was cheered around the globe, why the silence on the September 16 US cable? Where is the acknowledgment that Anwar was by far the more popular Malay leader compared to Najib, who till now is ridiculed by the Malays in his own Pekan hometown. Where is the acknowledgement that in Umno's Wawasan 2020 team, it was Anwar who was the leader and Najib a distant No. 2 or 3? Lastly, if Najib is so popular, why doesn't he call for snap polls immediately. This is the biggest test and the biggest joke on Soi Lek."

Malaysia Chronicle

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