- Party Vote Leaves Malaysian Leader a Weakened Winner
- So close yet so far for Mukhriz
- Government is Playing Politics with ‘Allah’
Posted: 20 Oct 2013 01:22 PM PDT
Allies of Prime Minister Najib Razak fought off challenges from conservatives in high-stakes party elections on Saturday night, leaving Mr. Najib in firm control — at least for now — over the United Malays National Organization.
Abhrajit Gangopadhyay, WSJ
But while Mr. Najib, who wasn't contested as his party's leader, kept allies in key party roles, he has been weakened, as shown by his recent tacks to the right to appease his conservative wing, analysts said.
And one conservative challenger who scored a large vote tally despite losing his bid to win one of three vice presidency slots — Mukhriz Mahathir, the chief minister of the northern state of Kedah — emerged as a potential formidable foe to Mr. Najib going forward.
The internal elections of UMNO are held every three years. The UMNO is Malaysia's largest political party that is at the core of 14-member National Front coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957. About 150,000 UMNO members voted through an electoral college, in which each of 191 party districts got to pick one person per contested post. The voting was held across the country.
The poll is politically significant because the party president is, by default, the premier of the country. The party's deputy chief is the deputy prime minister.
While those spots weren't contested, six people battled for three vice president spots.
The current vice presidents, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Rural and Regional Development Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal were pitted against Mohd Ali Rustam, a former chief minister of the western state of Malacca; Isa Samad, chairman of the state-run plantation company Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd., and Mr. Mukhriz. The incumbents won.
Among the challengers, Mr. Mukhriz, cornered most of the votes, winning in 91 out of 191 UMNO districts, compared to Mr. Samad and Mr. Ali Rustom, each of who won in seven districts. The voter-getting success of Mr. Mukhriz, who is the youngest son of Mahathir Mohamad – the former prime minister and Malay rights champion whose 22-year often-autocratic rule transformed agrarian Malaysia to one of the most industrialized economies in the region — suggests the strong support that Mr. Mahathir still enjoys within the party ranks.
"Mr. Mahathir will be Mr. Najib's number one opposition and source of headache," said Amir Fareed, director at political risk consultancy KRA Group.
Conservatives have rallied in the wake of the UMNO's weakest showing ever in national elections in May, when hundreds of thousands of urban voters — mostly the ethnic Chinese minority — deserted the ruling coalition in protest of its policies favoring ethnic Malay Muslims.
Strong backing from the rural Malay Muslims — UMNO's traditional voting bloc — saved the day for the ruling coalition.
Doubts, however, arose over Mr. Najib's leadership. Since then, Mr. Najib has reversed himself on several policy reforms, such as deciding to throw his support to additional preferential treatment for ethnic Malays in jobs and housing.
Posted: 20 Oct 2013 01:20 PM PDT
Joceline Tan, The Star
The big question is whether he will wait till the post is available or make a play for it in three years' time.
Posted: 20 Oct 2013 11:59 AM PDT
Besides, the Government's argument has all along been that 'Allah' is to be used exclusively by Muslims. So how come it's all right for the Government to let the Sabah and Sarawak Christians use it too?
Kee Thuan Chye
Firebombs didn't go off in mosques. Pigs' heads were not thrown into mosque compounds. These things did not happen after the Court of Appeal ruled against the High Court's 2009 decision to allow the Catholic weekly newspaper The Herald to use the word 'Allah' in referring to God.
They did not happen despite Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia's adding insult to injury by telling Christians to accept the verdict or leave the country. Its president, Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, said, "They can choose to move to another country if they cannot accept the supremacy of Islam and the royalty that protects the supremacy of the religion." It was irrelevant, uncalled-for and provocative, but the community that was targeted did not retaliate with violence. This of course is to its credit.
It did, however, react angrily to the verdict. Rev Eu Hong Seng, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, declared: "This is yet another erosion and infringement of the constitutional protection to the freedom of religious communities to profess and practise their faith and to manage their own affairs. The decision might encourage and fuel further misunderstanding and mistrust between the Muslim and Christian communities which will further undermine the unity of Malaysians."
Bishop Thomas Tsen, president of the Sabah Council of Churches, said, "It is not fair to say that using 'Allah' would confuse Muslim practitioners. No, we have always called our father in heaven 'Allah Bapak' or the Lord God 'Tuhan Allah'… We are sad and disappointed about this current ruling … it challenges the government's sincerity to see our people united."
Archbishop Bolly Lapok, chairperson of the Association of Churches, Sarawak, censured chief judge Mohamed Apandi Ali for saying that the use of the word 'Allah' was not integral to the Christian faith. In strong terms, he said, "The church does not need an apologist from outside to decide what is integral or not integral to our faith. It is repugnant to the universal common sense."
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