Partyforumseasia: Political families are not uncommon in party politics, take for example the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush and his son, the 43d President, George W. In Europe it happens less on the top level, but often enough in regional and local politics. The corruption and enrichment scandal in Indonesia’s Banten province and the remarkable career of Mukhriz Mahathir in Malaysia have brought the issue back into the media. In the Mukhriz case two narrowly lost elections, his candidacy for one of UMNO’s vice-presidential posts and the recent by-election in the federal state of Kedah, where he supported the local party candidate, are interpreted as defeat and the campaign support by his father Mahathir Mohamad, 88, a liability, signalling the end of father Mahathir’s overpowering influence in Malaysia’s and UMNO’s politics. The Banten case (already posted by Partyforumseasia) has much broader ramifications with family members of the governor Ms Ratu Atut holding seats in the national parliament, mayors, deputy regents and numerous business positions close to politics and administration. Continuing practices of money politics remind many Indonesians too much of Suharto’s family clan and the enrichment of his sons.
If the Banten-related corruption case involving the chief justice of the Constitutional Court should turn out as the tip of the iceberg, as it looks like, it will be more than difficult to fight family dynasties and money politics throughout the huge Indonesian archipelago.
By the way: Partyforumseasia has other (possible) family dynasties on its radar:
Thailand: Not only sister Yingluck, but also son Panthongtae Shinawatra
Malaysia: Mukhriz Mahathir from UMNO and Nik Abduh from PAS
Singapore: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a successful succession with a long break after his father resigned.
Partyforumseasia: Fierce competition inside a political party is the best time for observers and researchers to get a better picture of what is going on inside. The preparations for the internal elections which should have taken place already in 2012 but were postponed because of the May 2013 general election reveal a few things about UMNO after the extremely narrow victory which keeps it in power.
One interesting detail is that six candidates compete for three vice-presidential posts whereas PM Najib Razak und his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin remain unchallenged.
Among the six vice-presidential hopefuls one is more interesting than most of the others because he happens to be the son of former party president and long serving prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. This son, Mukhriz Mahathir, newly appointed chief minister of the federal state of Kedah immediately after the May election, is on the way up and would be a possible successor of PM Najib if elected as vice-president.
His father, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, like many other elder statesmen, continues to comment on everything political in the country, but still wields more real influence than most of his peers. His direct support for his rising son and his vice-presidential ambitions may help a lot in this special area of political culture. (In most European countries this open support would be counterproductive).
Source: Straits Times (Singapore) today, 26-9-2013.
But there is a nice irony involved which seems to go unnoticed by father Mahathir when he says: “Eventually people get bored of these outdated leaders who refuse to accept the reality.”
A European proverb is saying that you should not throw stones if you sit in a glass house…
Another interesting detail is the contest for chairing the women’s wing. Incumbent Shahrizat, who was involved in a massive corruption scandal under the headline “Cowgate” seems to enjoy endorsement for another term by PM Najib. But her challenger, senator Mazlah Maznan has good chances to replace Shahrizat exactly because of Cowgate.
UMNO is the biggest Malaysian party with 3.4 million members and the results of next month’s convention promise to be interesting!
Partyforumseasia: UMNO’s narrow victory of the May election (if it was a true one anyway as the opposition still doubts) seemed to suggest that the party cannot continue business (!!!!) and politics as usual. Reform should be the order of the post election period if the steady increase of support for the opposition coalition was to be stopped. The party leadership, instead, seems to see the way out in playing the Malay card again and forget about reform. Asia Sentinel, 16 September 2013(=link), sums it up in the formula: Malaysia’s PM Capitulates to the Hardliners________________ “The Sept.14 announcement of an array of new economic benefits for ethnic Malays by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak represents the premier’s final post-election capitulation to radical Malay nationalists in the United Malays National Organization.
The new plan signifies a U-turn back to the New Economic Policy of affirmative action for ethnic Malays that was put in place in 1971 following disastrous 1969 race riots. Economists are largely in agreement that the policy has saddled the economy for three decades. Najib, an economist himself, has been attempting to undo the policy for three years through his 1Malaysia economic liberalization program. The new plan will play a major role in UMNO’s deliberations at its Oct. 5 annual general assembly and is key to Najib’s keeping his job, UMNO insiders say. If nothing else, it is recognition that reform inside the party is dead.” Partyforumseasia is not surprised. PM Najib keeps his job but does not really look like a winner.
Partyforumseasia: This is “Vitalstatistix”, chief of Asterix’s and Obelix’s village in old Gaul. He is waiting on his shield to be uplifted and reconfirmed as chief…
The extended UMNO leadership seems to be divided over how party chairman Prime Minister Najib Razak should be confirmed this time: uncontested like all UMNO top leaders in the last 26 years…or elected. Competitive party elections can be divisive, sure, and each contender has his or her own enemies and supporters. But such is party politics and competition is normal.
For the next party election later this year, PM Najib seems to have already a potential challenger, UMNO senior statesman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, once called ” the best Prime Minister Malaysia never had”. Because (or despite his age, born in 1937) he might be the right leader to reconcile the UMNO factions and maybe even UMNO and PAS…
Another interesting result of the new competitiveness in Malaysia’s politics are the attempts of UMNO to reduce its internal money politics by enlarging the voter base for the party elections. Increasing the number of members with voting right from 2,500 to 140,000 may indeed make vote buying too expensive and unaffordable even for the richest leaders. But the patronage and pork barrel system will be difficult to eradicate.
Partyforumseasia …would never say it isn’t. The debate is inside the party about the two top leadership posts. It is an old habit since the times of Asterix about 2000 years ago to lift “born” leaders on a shield without wasting time for elections. Acclamation is sometimes acceptable if clear majorities are evident. But the normal way of determining party leaders is a contested election because it shows the margin of support for the winning leader. Obviously some leaders in UMNO want to do it the Asterix way, without the shield of course. Some others seem to prefer a proper election. But both are sure that UMNO is a democratic party:
Pahang’s chief minister Adnan Yaakob told reporters that he is against the uncontested top job solution: “UMNO is a democratic party. It is better if we do not do this because it will show that we are autocratic”. Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO deputy leader Muhyiddin Yassin who would profit from an uncontested re-election did not want to comment.
Actually the last contested election for the UMNO leadership was in 1987, 26 years ago, when Dr. Mahathir Mohamad narrowly won against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, which led to a party split.