Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bringing Anwar Ibrahim back to UMNO?

There’s an article by Oon Yeoh, former blogger at Malaysiakini and now correspondent, which talks about Mahathir and his impact on UMNO’s succession. It stated that while no one seriously expected Mahathir to remain mum after he retired, at the same time no one expected him to become the government's chief critic. And his current anti-AAB campaign seems designed to make AAB a one-term Prime Minister.

The article goes on to suggest that Uncle Mahathir would probably convince Najib to challenge Mr Abdullah in the next UMNO election, even though Mr Zigzag has declared his full allegiance to AAB, which in UMNO politics happened regularly without any meaning, like Anwar Ibrahim’s avowed allegiance to Mahathir during the former’s last few months in power.

Najib is aware that an impatient and very dangerous Khairy Jamaluddin awaits hungrily in the wings (or behind AAB’s sarong) of power. The longer Najib waits, the more powerful and dangerous a predatory Khairy would become and threaten his own position.

This is where the analysis for UMNO’s future presidential (and thus Malaysia’s prime ministerial) succession gets juicier, the sort of political speculation that Malaysians love.

OK, Najib has toppled a one-term AAB. As he is fairly young, in his early 50s, Najib could rule the roost for as long as three or even four terms as Prime Minister. Then his cousin, Hishamuddin Hussein, current Umno Youth Chief and perceived as No 3 in waiting, would then take over from Najib to serve two terms.

This projected line of succession would ball up things for Khairy, because he would only get a stab at the UMNO presidential post in around 32 years time. Besides, Khairy cannot do with a one-term AAB, as he would be politically eliminated within the party once AAB leaves prematurely, in 2008.

So, as the conspiratorial speculation gets even more interesting, an old favourite bone gets dug up again.

Could Khairy resort to extreme measure, a very dangerous one for himself, by ‘recruiting’ Anwar Ibrahim to challenge Najib in 2008 for the UMNO deputy presidential seat? The aim of course would be to eliminate Najib once and for all from the upper echelons of UMNO power.

Now, we all know that Anwar Ibrahim has been waiting for such an opening. Once one has tasted and enjoyed the sweet sheer power of Malaysian top politics, as one would at the top echelons of UMNO like Anwar once had, one would be reluctant to do the hard yards again like those old plodding born-losers DAP idealists or the snookered PAS leaders, or god forbid, the PKR neither-here-nor-there leaders.

So, as the article's analysis goes, after ousting Najib, Anwar could then succeed AAB for two terms as UMNO president, to be followed by a 48-year old Khairy, which would still make AAB's son-in-law the youngest PM of Malaysia.

The problem with the analysis or speculation is that it assumes:

(1) The projected line of succession, whether it’s AAB-Najib-Hishamuddin-Khairy, or AAB-Anwar-Khairy, is too linear, and not subjected to third or even 4th non-linear forces. For an example of such tangential forces coming into play, remember a young firebrand from ABIM that Mahathir himself helped parachute into the top ranks of UMNO?

(2) or that, Mahathir wants AAB out after one term. Does he?

(3) or that, AAB and Khairy could trust Anwar to hand power over to Khairy after the world's greatest political reformer's 2 terms as PM.

(4) or that, Anwar won’t institute his own line of succession.

(5) or that, Najib would sit still, naively oblivious to the plunging daggers all around him.

(6) or that, UMNO power brokers will entertain Anwar’s return.

(7) or that, as PKR or Anwar's supporters would protest, Anwar would even consider returning to UMNO - I put this here to pre-empt such a protest.

(8) or that, UMNO itself will allow young Khairy to ascend, even with AAB in the top seat. Many UMNO power brokers are already having second thoughts about young Khairy who has been rumoured to be too uncomfortably close to Singapore.

Talking about point (8), doesn't Khairy's situation remind you of someone in a similar set of circumstances, as in him being:

(a) parachuted in by UMNO's No 1
(b) too flamboyant and high profile
(c) antagonising to the traditional set because of his impatience
(d) surrounded by his own coterie of young impatient new UMNO politico-economic warriors
(e) where (d) terrorise other UMNO factions by their grab-all-take-no-prisoners attitude
(f) considered as an intellectual
(g) too close to foreign forces
(h) always teflon-ish, with the blame falling on someone else

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