What can Umno leaders do after losing?
|Praba Ganesan is Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Social Media Strategist. He wants to engage with you, and learn from your viewpoints. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @prabaganesan|
AUG 16 ― It’s official, the Raya season has begun.
These are not just days ― and probably weeks ― of merriment, but also deep contemplation. And for those in politics, considering all the tumult-surprise-confusion which inundates Malaysian politics, it is that brief spell to decide one’s future.
The quiet before the storm. The lull before peak-hour traffic is compounded by an eight-vehicle pile-up. Workmen sharpening the guillotine before the marketplace fills up in the aftermath of a revolution.
I worry for the Umno leaders ― “what next” if they lose the coming general election? Though many claim that’s unlikely, Umno booted out, I’ll scenario it out. A one-stop career guidance counselling of sorts for Umno men under a Pakatan Rakyat government. Especially for those who win their seats and find themselves in the opposition.
For Pakatan Rakyat folks, a guide is unnecessary. They have always faced the same day-after permutations for decades. Even when winning a state, the real power still resides in Putrajaya. Moving from a bit more to a bit less won’t scar us, we’d just have to find cheaper “mamak spots” (street eateries).
But for the Umno men, they will be wandering in the desert with little experience. So what can they do, when they lose power? Well... let me tell you, or make something up.
We shall return — real reform, real value
Plan the return back to power.
The defeated can regroup and do some soul-searching. With nobody having the living memory of general election annihilation, most might be dumbfounded for some time.
The honourable thing to do would be to accept the situation and work to improve it so that they will win the next general election. New faces have to be promoted and given more say, and those who ran the show have to step aside.
There will be money in Umno, but not as much as they are accustomed to. They might have to resort to one seemingly horrible measure — to fundraise.
A political fundraiser is when a party or candidate gathers people physically or communicates to a group in a mailing list. These people are told what the party and then the candidate stands for and then asked to contribute if they believe in the cause. This is not a horse-trading session. The party is not in a position to grant favours, it only promises good government or a type of government when it wins.
Organisers cannot give people money, burgers and free transport to the target audience. The idea is to collect from the people, not pay them for support.
I’m being repetitive but I fear that many of my colleagues in Umno will find this “fundraising” exercise incredulous and preposterous.
Many Umno reps would also have to downgrade their lifestyles. Being a division chief or Member of Parliament will not be a ticket to lucrative positions like directors of GLCs, heads of licensing boards or the likes. They might even be unlucky enough that suddenly they are no more closely related to someone holding a monopoly, fat contract or highway concessionaire.
Émile Durkheim did point out in “The Anatomy of a Suicide” that a drastic major fluctuation in wealth can have adverse effects on the psychological well-being of individuals.
A less than opulent Umno might crack more than a few veterans. Those multiple home and automobile repayments may hover like “live” power cables.
Do you have room in the inn? (Umno men head to PKR or PAS)
Defection is a strong word, let’s rebrand it as right-positioning.
If you are used to power, then gravitating to those now in power seems only natural. Swallow your pride and take the new oath.
That, a fair number of Umno leaders might just do.
They have trained a nation to have a short memory and this will come in handy. Malaysia’s “loathe to read but fed on TV majority” would probably forget these leaders’ Umno past.
And for the Umno men, the adjusting to PKR and PAS would be more fluid. Umno has no ideology, it stands for power. So those leaving don’t have to denounce any philosophy or concept.
If you choose PKR, which incidentally was the main trajectory of all their previous spew, you might have to feign innocence and say you were just playing politics — repeat this sound-bite: “Don’t blame the player, blame the game.”
If you choose PAS, then you just have to trade the songkok for a skullcap, pray in public places and look mournful when you recollect the misfortune which forced PAS to part company with Umno in 1978.
Quit politics and talk about it (The life of the political pundit)
A change of government would lead to a more open mainstream media operating with growing Internet content.
So much space, always there for the former politician to become political pundits. Look at Mahathir Mohamad, a blogger on a mission.
Don’t worry if you don’t know much, the general public will not be surprised by this nugget of a disclosure.
The money might be thin, but the politician in you wants to be remembered and current.
You can write your story. (If you can’t type, don’t worry; if you can’ tell a story, don’t worry; and if you can’t remember most of what you were supposed to remember about your years in power, don’t worry. This is why there are ghost writers. They’ll write everything and even lie about knowing you.)
There is the additional option here, but rarely utilised, you can draw your story. Use crayons, use water-colours, use oil or use all of them. Or just a steady German-made pencil.
Over the years, us on the other side have been used to the taunt aimed at us: “If you can’t deal with us in power, then just leave Malaysia.”
I believe no citizen should be told this, I’m just saying they are welcome to review their own “strategic” dare.
Pauline Hanson, the former firebrand racist Australian politician, said in 2010 that she was migrating to Britain because her country had failed her. Her ideas and intentions to keep Australia more “white” failed to capture the imagination of enough, or there were presumably not enough racists in the country.
However, Hanson after staying in Europe changed her mind. She said that too many immigrants have infiltrated Britain. The United Kingdom to her had become not “white” enough.
The Pakatan Rakyat vision of less racism and more emphasis on equality for all Malaysians — even if it takes a generation to realise — ends up being too frightening, then the Umno man might have to look for a for xenophobic locality to move to.
I’d have to warn the Umno leaders though, even if the new destination has levels of hate akin to their taste like in parts of eastern Europe, the animosity is directed at them.
Apparently even haters are hated by other haters of other sorts.
I’d mention also, though this is not to suggest anything in particular, when choosing you might want to shortlist nations which don’t have extradition treaties with Malaysia.
Business, run a business
In any situation, going into business is a common option.
A business would require basic sense of product or service and recognise the market for the product. Building a customer base takes time and effort. With the proper care for margin in relation to sales volume, a proper business will be realised.
You probably won’t get a business loan simply because you are a political leader. You won’t get a major contract without showing a portfolio of works and establish clear capacity to complete the job. You’d have to comply with financial, industrial and ministerial regulations depending on the nature of the business. You have to build a management and live off margins.
Actually, now I think about it, you are better off not doing business.
Oddball choice: Public relations guru
I’m not sure how promising these options are, but I vaguely see value propositions linking politicians and the career.
You are part of a party which has without blinking sold to the public the most outlandish plans; for example, defective submarines and a national automotive policy built on protecting the inefficient.
There are many young, old, poor, rich, Scrabble playing or sleep-walking citizens who will even after your electoral defeat believe that you and Umno were only doing the best for the country.
I’m not sure what or how, but surely you must be a genius at public relations by the virtue of your leadership in Umno. Perhaps a short correspondence course will unearth more.
Always look on the bright side of life
Still, life outside power will be dim for the Umno man. For them, they will always remember what was mighty about Rome, not that their emperor played a fiddle while it burnt down.
I don’t expect them to change their minds because that involves invalidating the life they led, to a degree.
There would be one industry which would struggle for a short while after Umno’s rule ends, stand-up comedians — they’ve never been short on material in Umno-ruled Malaysia.
There is one silver-lining for them. Those replacing them will not be vengeful as them, being mean is not an affectation you can just pick up. It takes time; it took Umno leaders a long time to become the mean cusses they are today.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.