IT was one day after the one year anniversary of the fall of Barisan Nasional. If you were in Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah on Friday and witnessed the rock star reception ‘”bossku” Datuk Seri Najib Razak received, you would not have thought Pakatan Harapan is now in control of the Federal government.
The nearly hysterical crowd, shouting “Malu apa bossku” (what’s the shame my boss?)”, was mostly Muslim bumiputra of Bajau, Suluk and Sungai descent.
The former Prime Minister was in town to campaign in a hypermart for Parti Bersatu Sabah, which is contesting against DAP in the Sandakan parliamentary by-election.
If you shared photographs or video clips of “bossku in Sandakan” on Facebook, you would get vitriol from friends who are mostly Chinese.
Whether you like him or not, I put the bossku phenomenon as one of my top three significant political developments during the one year rule of Pakatan. It is unbelievable that he is now a political rock star among certain communities.
Political analyst Dr Abdul Latiff Mohd Ibrahim, however, disagreed. He said developments in Najib’s corruption trial had dented the bossku phenomenon.
“The propagandists have been outplayed,” he said.
Universiti Utara Malaysia political science lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff agreed, saying the bossku phenomenon was merely transitory and temporary.
“It will die its natural death later on,” he said.
In mamak shops in the suburbs of Sandakan, one of the hot political topics other than the nitty gritty of the Sandakan by-election is who will succeed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister. From the chatter of the political insiders, it looks like support has shifted to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
The succession plan is my second top significant event during the Pakatan rule.
“The PM succession plan, though hotly debated, will only be more significant in the second year,” said Kamarul.
Abdul Latiff said the plan remains because abandoning it would be dangerous for Pakatan.
“Even (DAP advisor) Lim Kit Siang has stood his ground on this and appears serious about seeing Anwar succeed Mahathir. The only question is when, and if, Anwar will wait. Beyond two years may be a bit difficult but still manageable,” he said.
My third pick is the Umno-PAS unity cooperation. United, these two parties won the Semenyih and Rantau state seats and Cameron Highlands parliamentary seat in recent by-elections.
Abdul Latiff believes it was only a marriage of convenience.
Remember that despite the “cooperation”, Umno still maintains strong ties with MCA and MIC, he said: “So far this roundabout relationship has not been tested.”
To him, it was not a Malay-Muslim unity thing because if it was, why have two parties, he argued.
“If they have decided to strengthen Malays and Muslims as the main objective of their ‘struggle’, they must merge into one. What’s holding them back?”
He thinks it is just a political ploy “to hoodwink the Malays so that the PH government can be brought down.”
What brings and keeps Umno and PAS together, according to Kamarul, is purely and strictly political calculation along the lines of rational choice theory. To get back into power, they have no choice but to combine their forces, he said.
“However, they have yet to get into the more difficult part of determining the real shape of power sharing in the form of electoral seats or government posts allocation which can indicate the durability of the unity,” he said.
Umno-PAS unity is one of Kamarul’s top three significant political developments in the last one year. The other is the exodus of Barisan coalition partners and Umno MPs from Barisan, which has reduced the influence of the former ruling coalition besides paving the way for Umno and PAS uniting.
“However, the fact that these coalition partners and Umno leaders who left BN are mostly still in limbo – as far as their relationship with PH or their position in the government is concerned – speaks much about the uncertainty of Malaysian politics now, and they could revert to BN if it is deemed profitable,” he said.
Kamarul’s third pick is the charging of top Umno leaders for corruption, especially Najib and party president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said it has set into motion various political developments including the exodus of Barisan coalition partners and the “re-
invention” of Umno.
“This also more or less vindicates PH’s campaign theme of Umno’s corruption during GE14,” he said.
Abdul Latiff noted that it is significant that Dr Mahathir’s assessment of his Cabinet was “average”. Instead of replacing ministers, he said he would rather see some shuffling of ministers.
“They need to bring in a more forceful and dynamic person for the communications ministry, the Rural Development portfolio needs a change as well, and with the National Unity portfolio, P. Waytha Moorthy is finding himself in a bind, he should go elsewhere.
One year on, ethnic relations in the country have become worse and extremist views are being propagated,” he said.
I feel that Abdul Latiff is too kind. If I were the Prime Minister, there are a few incompetent ministers I feel deserve the sack. After all, there are also many young, dynamic MPs who could replace them.
We’re now in the second year of Pakatan rule. Politicians can play their version of the Game Of Thrones but what might get them politically slaughtered might not be politics at all but the sluggish economy.