I read with sadness Sakmongkol's justifications for wanting Isa to stand in the Bagan Pinang bye-elections. This is because I actually have a lot of respect for Dato Ariff. From the writings on his blog, he seems to be a person of high character. But I guess the drive to see his party win something - anything - after a long string of losses over rode every other consideration.
I chose not to make any comments on his blog about the latest bye-election because as an interested neutral, I am not interested in getting into a partisan argument of the merits of one candidate or another. But I guess his justifications for wanting Isa to stand is shared by many within UMNO - maybe even the majority of UMNO members.
In announcing Isa's candidacy for the Bagan Pinang seat, the UMNO/BN seems set to win the bye-election as could be seen from the enthusiastic support for Muhyiddin's announcement today. Finally, UMNO seems to have a united and passionate group on the ground willing to give their all for their candidate. Very likely, UMNO/BN will win what with the postal votes and cohesive machinery and all the other usual election tactics.
But at what cost, this victory?
The once-great UMNO is suffering from a chronic debilitating conditon - corruption. So far, they have not been able to wean themselves from this narcotic. In fact, the many events that have washed over the nation have served to expose again and again the UMNO politics of arrogance, with power maintained by corruption and abuse of power.
Instead of any meaningful attempt to rehabilitate themselves, the greatest efforts have been spent on the jarring combination of glamorous PR and brutal suppression of dissent.
I had written some time back about why I think UMNO/BN was going to lose it all eventually, using cognitive dissonance and cultural dissonance as the basis of my reasoning.
But the first indications are that UMNO is not suffering from any cognitive dissonance this time in the Bagan Pinang bye elections. Muhyiddin looked genuinely pleased and the crowd's loud cheers sounded genuine too when announcing Isa's candidacy.
But their seeming lack of qualms in throwing their support behind another tainted candidate after the last debacle speaks volumes of UMNO's desperation and lack of scruples. That also shows that UMNO STILL has not learnt its lesson - that it needs a total reform NOW! But it's pretty clear that UMNO/BN politicians are no longer able to see beyond the gilded walls of the party.
In announcing Isa's candidacy, Muhyiddin roared to the enthusiastic crowd: "If the people of Bagan Pinang want Isa, then Isa it will be!" But the only people in that room cheering for Isa were UMNO/BN people. Is that the only kind of people who matter to UMNO/BN? Are the non-UMNO/BN people simply proles to be used and manipulated or suppressed to maintain themselves in their power?
By only listening to their internal voices and ignoring the wishes of the greater electorate, UMNO has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are no longer a party for the people. They are a party for themselves because only their own opinions matter. And if their internal voices say "field the tainted candidate" UMNO does exactly that even though corruption is the major reason why they are being rejected in the first place!
The immediate and most obvious damage would be upon UMNO's credibility - again. UMNO simply cannot afford another scandal, but somehow they are willing again and again to dip into the sewers in search of solutions to their problems. But faced with the prospect of actually winning for once, UMNO seems to be unconcerned about fielding a tainted candidate who couldn't even secure a VP post in his own party elections.
But Isa is said to be extremely popular at the grassroots level and highly anticipated to win. But even if UMNO/BN does win this bye-election, it will be a poison for them as it will only serve to INCREASE the level of cognitive dissonance towards UMNO/BN.
Say they win. Will the party be MORE motivated or LESS motivated to reform? If during their most desperate hour facing rejection by the people they are not willing to change, will they be willing to change if they feel like they are gaining acceptance via a victory?
I would think that they will start to believe that all their political shenanigans have finally turned the tide in their favour. If so, why change the formula? Logically speaking, even more of the same thing would get more of the same result isn't it?
So if UMNO/BN is thus emboldened to continue their zero-sum agenda at all costs, the nation will become even more divided. Plus with the MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP all becoming more irrelevant by the day and the Sarawak govt rocked by scandals, there is will be less and less reason for people to genuinely support UMNO/BN.
It will then spiral into a vicious cycle - extreme politicking will reduce popular support, and without popular support UMNO/BN will have to resort to even more extreme politicking to maintain their hold on power.
In such a situation, it is not inconveivable that there will be popular revolt. Since Malaysians are a peaceful people, the coming revolution will most likely be felt at the ballot box. That's when UMNO/BN will go the way of the dinosaurs.
It would have been much better if UMNO had chosen an untainted candidate and lost. At least they would have lost with honour. I believe there are many people out there who have fond memories of UMNO/BN who find their support wavering because of the shenanigans of the party the support.
A dignified loss would have given them some hope that their party is capable of reform and a return to the greatness they once were. But what hope will a tainted victory bring? Cognitive dissonance will surely set in when they are marking the "X" next to the BN logo because the people know that they are voting for Isa who was dismissed for vote buying.
People cannot go on supporting a corrupt party unconditionally. Their goodwill is the only thing that justifies their current cognitive dissonance. But without seeing real change that the sincere UMNO/BN supprters can believe in, that well of goodwill will all be dried up one day when the people suffer enough of the cognitive dissonance that the UMNO/BN is subjecting them to.
And that's when they will throw their support behind anyone except UMNO/BN.
So what's the point of winning one small bye-election today, but in the end lose the entire electorate tomorrow?