Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the result of the Kuala Terengganu By-Election

by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
January 18, 2009

Barisan Nasional has been humiliated at the polls for the third time in ten months. I am full of admiration for the hardworking party members who toiled for two weeks on a local struggle. But we lost because of a national problem. The rakyat reject UMNO in its present form and style, and they reject its leadership.

Despite ringing signals from the rakyat through March 8 and Permatang Pauh, UMNO either has not heard the call for fundamental change, or is unable to respond to it.

Money, machinery and incumbency could not trump the call for change. BN will lose, and will in the end lose everything, until we respond fully and sincerely. But the response from the leadership yet again is that this “should not be interpreted as voters having spurned BN.” Our leadership remains in denial. Loyal members of UMNO and the BN will feel they are on a sinking ship.

UMNO has lost by a large majority in a 90% Malay constituency. We lost because of Malay votes in a state whose government we control. We threw the national resources of a party in Federal power at this election, and still we lost.

Actually this was more than a referendum on the leadership. It was a test of the relevance of UMNO in its present form. If UMNO is no longer relevant to the Malays, the BN formula is dead. The Chinese will have no reason to support MCA, and so on. The power-sharing, consensual bargain on which our political system has been based since Independence is broken.

There are serious implications to this. We have always claimed that social peace in Malaysia is built on this bargain. A party leadership in denial is unlikely to form a government with the realism and guts to face an economic meltdown that it also denies is happening. We are in uncharted waters with no one at the wheel. ---Tengku Razaleigh's Official Weblog

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