Tuesday, October 7, 2008

‘Darling you gotta let me know…’

Badawi is obviously at another crossroads, another moment of truth; possibly having asked himself the same question from the line in the song by Clash: ‘Should I stay or should I go?

Though the odds are quite good that he’s struck a deal with Najib and the party insiders already know the general parameters of his departure from the helm of Umno, it must still come as a rude awakening to Badawi that his days as prime minister are numbered. Why with all the cast of character seemingly throwing their hat in the ring for the deputy president post in Umno, you would assume that Najib is all but set to move up the pecking order and Badawi will orchestrate the transition to suite his desired outcome.

So should we take this as a foregone conclusion that Badawi is not going to contest for re-election as Umno president? Well, on one level, it sure seems that way. Arguably, despite all his political failures, Badawi surely could not be so incapable as not to see the hand-writing on the wall. He must know that even if he can garner enough nominations to run for re-election as party chief, it would still be humiliating – to say the least - if he only barely manages to meet the minimum required nominations or encounters significant dissent that all he ends up securing is a pyrrhic victory.

Or could there be an ‘October surprise’ impending from Badawi? Perhaps we cannot rule out a kind of surprise where Badawi somehow manages a miraculous feat – like pulling a rabbit out of the hat – and prolongs his term as Umno president beyond the next Umno party election.

It is hard to deny that Badawi’s reign has thus far – by his own benchmarks for reform - come close to being a total failure. It is also true, as Ku Li has pointed out, Badawi’s plan to postpone the party’s election may well be – according to party protocol - ‘extra-constitutional.’ But if Badawi goes down that path, does anyone within the party – including Ku Li – have any recourse? Ku Li has also made it apparent – in no uncertain terms – that he’s trying to secure the necessary nominations to make a go for the top post. This will no doubt be one of the main sub-plots of the whole reshuffle within Umno – and most certainly, Ku Li’s last hurrah. It will also reveal exactly how fractured the Umno body politic has become. If Ku Li cannot manage a real challenge, let alone win, then it’ll be apparent that Badawi and Najib have managed to successfully corral the troops and party bosses to go along with their transition agenda. And if Ku Li remains in contention, then that would also speak volumes of the upheaval within the party. Either way, Najib and Badawi both only undermine their own credibility when they treat the party’s leadership succession saga much like, in Ku Li’s words, ‘passing property’ from one owner to another.

As we wait for the proverbial shoe to fall, I’m amused at the possibility that Badawi could well have contemplated the following famous lines from the above song:

If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know…

Should I stay or should I go?

G. Krishnan