Divisions get to heal division
Friday, 19 September 2008 09:16am
©The Star (Used by permission)Analysis by Joceline TanDatuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s new finance portfolio is part of the 2010 handover of power plan but the Umno divisions will still have the final say on the transition.A HOST of conspiracy theories have sprung up over the mutual exchange of portfolios between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.The most intriguing one is that Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s new finance portfolio is “a pacifier” and “a carrot,” in view of the potential challenge for the Umno presidency.Many, including those around the Prime Minister, could not figure out why Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would want to give up such a powerful ministry to his deputy. Logically speaking, one does not empower the person who may soon be challenging you for the top post.As such, when Abdullah left the packed press conference after announcing the appointments, his political secretary Datuk Alwi Che Ahmad looked closely at his face for clues.But Alwi ended up even more puzzled because, as he recalled, “my boss was smiling away”.Unfortunately, for all lovers of conspiracy theories out there, the appointment of Najib as the new Finance Minister I has nothing to do with plots or schemes. It is simply part of the transition of power plan.There will be more transfers of responsibility to Najib in the months ahead and this new portfolio is seen as essential in preparing him for the big job.“The DPM has been in government since his twenties. He does not need to be trained but we understand that this portfolio will give him added exposure to the world of finance and economics,” said Alwi.Popularity alone is not sufficient for political leadership in this time and age.The leader of any country must also have an understanding of monetary and fiscal policy, capital markets and financial institutions.As Abdullah indicated, Najib, in his forthcoming trip to New York for the United Nations assembly will also be meeting fund managers and investors in his new capacity as Finance Minister I.“Pak Lah is very sincere about the transition. He is aware that some of Datuk Najib’s supporters were not convinced about the transition. This proves his sincerity and the sincerity should be reciprocated,” said Alwi.Abdullah’s reasoning is that Najib will take over as Prime Minister in 2010 or if need be, even earlier.And when Najib takes over, he would want the assurance of his own mandate, which means that he may not wait till 2012 to call for a general election.Given that, he would need time to build up confidence in his leadership especially in his ability to manage the economy.“The PM is giving him the chance to prove himself and Datuk Seri Najib will table the next Budget as the future Prime Minister.“People will have a better idea of his economic outlook and the kind of policies to expect when he takes over. Then he can go to the people and win their approval,” said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wan Farid Wan Salleh.The question on everyone’s lips is whether Najib is still sticking to the 2010 transition plan that was announced in July.There has been a lot of confusion caused by conflicting reports so much so that Najib’s supporters had to send out SMSes to Umno members to correct the perception.But the situation is quite simple. As of now, Najib stands by the 2010 transition plan. But he also stands by his statement that he will leave the final decision to delegates attending the Umno divisional AGMs which begin next month.A total of 191 Umno divisions will meet from Oct 9 to Nov 9 during which they will nominate their choice of candidates for the posts of president and deputy president downwards.The leadership transition has gone beyond just what the two top leaders want to what the Umno grassroots really want.Besides, the leadership transition deal struck between Abdullah and Najib was not widely accepted from the start.It took the Permatang Pauh by-election and a series of political incidents that followed before Najib was compelled to make the difficult decision of putting the transition plan in the hands of the party grassroots.If the majority of Umno divisions want Abdullah and Najib to continue as the party president and deputy president, he would willingly accept that.But if they preferred him to move up to the No 1 slot, he would also have to consider that.On Tuesday night, Najib’s Putrajaya residence overflowed with guests who had flocked to his buka puasa gathering.Some were invited; others invited themselves. There was enough food and drinks but there were simply not enough seats and some of the guests had to adjourn to the restaurant down the road for dinner.But many of those who lined up to say hello to the host assured him that he had done the right thing by going back to the party grassroots.