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BW: Mahathir - 'The Only Way He'll Leave Office Is in a Box'
By Michael Shari
29/3/2001 12:45 am Thu
[Strategi Dr Mahathir untuk kekal berkuasa dan tidak
dipertanggung-jawabkan jika ada sebarang bencana menimpa
Umno dalam pilihanraya akan datang. Dua rombakkan penting
perlembagaan Umno telah dilakukannya sebagai persediaan:
1- Dia akan kekal sebagai presiden walaupun tidak menjadi PM.
2- Dia kekal presiden sehingga pemilu akan datang.
Jika Umno memang, Badawi dijadikan PM tetapi Umno masih
kekal di tangan Mahathir. Badawi umpama kacang sahaja
buat Mahathir kerana dia sudah menghapuskan ramai lagi yang
lebih hebat termasuk Anwar, Ku Li dll.
Nampaknya Mahathir mengorak langkah persis Lee Kuan Yew,
cumanya dia memijak dan menggondol botak semua semua
ketuanan melayu menjadi me...layu.
INTERNATIONAL -- ASIAN BUSINESS
Commentary: "The Only Way He'll Leave Office Is in a Box"
In recent weeks, speculation has swirled that Malaysian Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad is on his way out. Those who subscribe
to this view believe Mahathir never fully recovered from the widely
decried jailing of his ambitious heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, in
1998. Since Anwar was jailed, Mahathir's party has lost ground and
the PM's standing has fallen among the Malay majority. The Prime
Minister has said he will stay on until his newly designated
successor, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, is ready to take
over. That will happen soon, say Mahathir's opponents, who expect
the Malaysian leader to leave in disgrace.
But don't wave good-bye to Dr. M. just yet. Badawi, after all, is just
the latest in a series of contenders for the top job. And while
Mahathir has been damaged politically by the Anwar affair and
other problems, it would be foolish to underestimate the wily
75-year-old politician's staying power. Veteran Malaysia watchers
say he is really concocting a scheme to rule by proxy for the rest of
his life. "The only way he'll leave office is in a box," says a
diplomat in Kuala Lumpur. According to this view, Mahathir plans to
install a weak leader--Badawi--who would preserve Mahathir's
legacy as patron saint of Malaysia Inc.
Mahathir, meanwhile, would continue to rule from the wings through
his leadership of the powerful United Malays National Organization,
or UMNO, the dominant party in the ruling coalition. A similar
formula has worked in Singapore, where Senior Minister Lee Kuan
Yew is still regarded as the island's paramount leader--and still
vies with Mahathir for the distinction of being Asia's elder
statesman, 11 years after resigning as Prime Minister.
Mahathir could put his plan in motion as early as next year. He has
already laid the groundwork by proposing two key changes in
UMNO's constitution. One would let him remain party president
without also serving as Premier, as is now required. The other
would let him hold the party presidency until after the next election.
Normally the President steps down before the polls and reclaims the
post only if UMNO is reelected. By changing the rules, Mahathir
would reduce his political risk should his party perform poorly.
Then, assuming UMNO was returned to power as expected,
Mahathir would make Badawi Prime Minister, leaving himself in
control of the UMNO apparatus, one of the most potent political
machines in East Asia.
One advantage of this plan is that it deftly resolves the succession
issue, perhaps Malaysia's most destabilizing element. The other
advantage--for Mahathir, at least--is that holding on to the party
machine would leave him with the real power, a vast crony network
that runs Malaysia's largest banks and heavy industries. As Prime
Minister, Badawi would be expected to continue Mahathir's
economic policies, such as trade protection for companies, and
retain affirmative-action laws that favor Malays over the
economically powerful Chinese community.
A former Foreign Minister and Education Minister, Badawi, 60, has
spent 21 years in the Cabinet, only six years less than Mahathir
himself. Known among Southeast Asian diplomats as "the quiet
man," Badawi is seen as one of the few senior UMNO officials who
is unlikely to mount an attack against Mahathir or his two sons,
Mirzan and Mokhzani, who are active in banking, shipping, and
other businesses. Mahathir has already pushed aside any real
rivals to Badawi, including, of course, Anwar.
The shadow-shogun scenario looks like a neat way for Mahathir to
retain power. The only potential flaw in the plan is Badawi himself.
He may be too weak to reverse UMNO's internal and external
problems, even with Mahathir in the background. UMNO's fortunes
have flagged since the last election in November, 1999, when the
party turned in its worst showing in 40 years. Last December, after
an ethnic Indian party allied with UMNO lost a symbolically
important by-election, party leaders publicly criticized Mahathir for
the first time. The defeat, senior UMNO leader Shamir Samad told
reporters, proved Malay voters were fed up with "the character of
our leader, Dr. Mahathir."
The PM is gambling that simply by signaling his succession plan,
he will restore stability to long-ruling UMNO --and, by association,
to the country at large. Will voters buy it? Many Malaysians hanker
after economic and political reform. Some are joining ranks with the
increasingly popular fundamentalist Malaysian Islamic Party, or
Rather than implement economic reforms that would be painful for
UMNO cronies, Mahathir has called for unprecedented "unity talks"
with PAS. His critics have been quick to depict this as a sign of
weakness. But others see it as a clever way for him to identify PAS
sympathizers in UMNO ranks and root them out later. Malaysia's
politicians would do well to remember that Dr. M. has
outmaneuvered many an opponent before.