Malaysia: UMNO Polls Without Surprise

Partyforumseasia:The internal party polls are over, UMNO president Najib and his deputy were confirmed uncontested. As The Star Online (click for the link) summarises today, 20 October 2013, “Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for status quo resounded within the party.”

All incumbents for the top party posts have been re-elected, and the probably most anticipated possible win of “rising son” Mukhriz Mahathir was narrowly avoided with 91 votes for Mukhriz and 100 for the incumbent. Mukhriz 1
Speculations that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position as party president had been weakened after the May general election were obviously exaggerated, if even the women wing’s leader Sharizat, tainted

by her “cowgate”- corruption scandal, made it easily with a 90% majority.

The real balance of power between the different factions in the party remains mostly behind the wayang kulit screen, though. But according to analyst Bridget Welsh from Singapore’s Management University, the Mahathir Mohamad camp is angry and expected to hit back (Malaysiakini, 20.10.)

What is interesting beyond the incumbents is how the new internal polling system worked and whether it changed the dynamics within the party. It is difficult to believe vice president Muhyddin’s statement that the new system is “not only a mission to eliminate money politics but more importantly, to strengthen the party by empowering the grassroots” (The Star Online, 20.10.) For the first time, not the traditional 2,500, but 230,000 delegates could vote, but only within one of the 191 branches. This gives the rural branches which are easier to control much more weight than the urban ones with more members. According to Bridget Welsh (Malaysiakini) there is also evidence of vote-buying and the usual top-down pattern in the new system.

Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen Ignores Opposition

Partyforumseasia: Never underestimate the determination of Prime Minister Hun Sen to defend his grip on power and ignore the opposition which may have been tempted to overestimate its leverage after its success in the 28 July elections. Especially calling support from the international community gives Hun Sen the easy counter-argument that he will never allow such interference.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy might share the bitter experience of Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia. They both have their nemesis in prime ministers clinging to power and defending a privileged access to the resources of their country.

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The Voice of America Cambodia article ( also quotes the PM:
“Hun Sen said in a six-hour address on Wednesday that he opposed “foreign interference” in Cambodia’s political affairs.
“We do not need the recognition of any president or ambassador,” Hun Sen said. “It’s not necessary to ask for the recognition of the UN secretary-general, or signature countries of the Paris Accords. I won’t allow any foreigners to dictate Cambodian politics.”
See also the insightful analysis by Phoak Kung in The Diplomat ( also available in Bomborra  (Click on the blue names to access the article)

Philippines: Is Re-election Without Pork Barrelling Possible?

PorkPartyforumseasia: A recent scandal involving 23 suspects including members of parliament and senators as well as former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may give new momentum to the fight against political corruption and the endemic pork barrelling in the Philippines, which President Aquino has declared a priority for his term of office. Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is under investigation for setting up bogus NGOs and embezzling nearly $ 290 million from disaster relief and development funds. Up to half of the funds paid out to the NGOs seem to have gone to the accused legislators.
Pork Barrelling is a common political tool in the country and based, like in other countries in the region, on traditional patron-client relations between voters and their MP or senator. According to the political science analysis legislators get kickbacks from development projects (e.g. the Countryside Development Fund – CDF) at a rate of 30%. One full term in office was supposed to yield about $ 200,000 for a House member and $ 600,000 for a senator (estimated 2009 figures). This has been called “Standard Operation Procedures (SOP)” but growing public protest and President Aquino’s determination to fight corruption might end the SOP – probably later than sooner. Lawmakers so far need this additional income to pay for their party and campaign expenses.

Malaysia: Another Rising Son – Nik Abduh in PAS

Nik Abduh.docxPartyforumseasia: Nik Abduh (full name: Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz) combines religious credentials and family ties for a promising political career in Malaysia’s Islamic party PAS. Son of the spiritual leader and long term chief minister of PAS stronghold Kelantan Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the 43 year old Nik Abduh has studied in Nadwatul Ulama (Lucknow) and Darul Uloom (Deoband) in India as well as at the Al Azhar University in Cairo. Whereas these institutions do not necessarily prepare their students for political practice, they may encourage them to go into politics with a religious motivation. And since religion plays an important role in PAS and Malaysia in general, Nik Abduh seems to be cut out for a top leadership role and possible succession of his father as spiritual leader of the party.
Nik Abduh’s political credentials are also impressive. He is deputy chairman of the PAS Youth Wing and defeated a formidable competitor in the May 2013 election, Ibrahim Ali, leader of the Malay rights and supremacy group Perkasa.
In the run-up to party elections in November, the coalition issue with Pakatan Rakyat seems to be controversially discussed among members and candidates. Some say that Nik Abduh and other leaders in his age group are against Anwar’s supporters, called Anwarinas. But Nik is also being quoted with a clear preference for PAS remaining in the opposition coalition.
Less reassuring for the Malaysian Non-Muslims may be Nik’s activities in the religious field like a sticker campaign “Love Rasulullah” (the messenger of God) when the reputation of the Prophet Muhammad seemed to be under attack. Or his clear stance against Shiites and Liberals. But his second name Abduh is possibly referring to the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh, a liberal reformer and key founder of Islamic Modernism.