Monday, October 6, 2008
Wednesday D-Day for Pak Lah?
The Prime Minister is expected to announce by Wednesday that he is not seeking re-election as Umno president. It won't be news to most Malaysians by now but he would have to make known his stand at the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional supreme council meetings. Pak Lah will stay on until March. He will also inform the 191 Umno divisions, which will begin their meetings on Oct 9, that he would decline nominations for the top post. His announcement will mark the beginning of a leadership transition period, which will see the baton being passed on to his deputy, Najib Tun Razak. The task for Najib will be tough. Najib has said that the BN, particularly Umno, must change or be changed. But the question is do Umno leaders realise the need to change?
More than eight months after the general election, the perception is that Umno does not see the urgency to reform itself. The impression is that Umno leaders prefer to blame others - from Pak Lah to Anwar Ibrahim to the press - except themselves. Some seemed to believe that racial posturing is the answer, not realising that they would continue to alienate the young Malays and other races. The idea is to win back the votes of all races, not lose them further. Some have lost the connect with the young, still harping on historical events, which meant little to a country where over 60% of the population are less than 24 years old. Like John McCain, who doesn't know how to use the Internet against Obama, who cannot live without his Blackberry, there are plenty in Umno, and BN, who have no inkling what is happening in cyberspace. Najib has the job of convincing his members that they must change, the party must go through reforms, the party needs rebranding (and it doesn't mean a new set of uniforms and badges) and reinvention. It's simple, nobody can sell a product that's over 50 years old with more of the same. The clients - in this case, the electorate - have changed and surely they cannot be using a product, which they cannot identify with. Unless Umno members recognise these weaknesses, the going would be tough for Najib. He has less than four years to carry out drastic changes to win back the states BN lost to Pakatan Rakyat. It has to be a battle of popularity from now. It is about appealing to the people. It can no longer be business as usual for Umno or it will be out of business.