When Mahathir was in power he had things under control except his daughter Marina, the economy and the future of UMNO. When Badawi came into power he did nothing and controlled nothing thus both UMNO and even Malaysia started to disintegrate. However we shall just focus on UMNO because we all know how our country fares now.
Since Najib becomes its president UMNO has fallen into a limbo; Najib has not been able to control things and things go beyond control that has led UMNO being totally unprepared for the coming GE-13.
The other BN component party members are not helping either. They have their own internal problems to settle and are not prepared for the GE-13 too.
Najib had to postpone the UMNO party elections because he knew that he would be challenged and the fighting would be very fierce because UMNO has already practically disintegrated. Therefore to salvage what was left, he got the mandate to have the final decision in determining who should be the candidates. He must have spent a lot of money on the delegates to get their votes.
Despite having that mandate, Najib has not really focused on the choice whereby there are two or three hopefuls per seat. This has not really help in narrowing the choice of candidates because there are other BN component party members to consider too. Najib has given up in trying controlling Sarawak and has let Taib Mahmud do whatever he likes as long as he delivers the BN seats to parliament.
However the conflicting words between what Najib had stated in the UMNO annual assembly last year that preference would be given to the office bearers in the present set up, with the words by UMNO secretary-general Tengku Adnan Mansor complicated the situation. Tengku Adnan said in April this year that with all the divisions have submitted their lists, it was particularly interesting that there were names of candidates who were not “even in the Umno division”.
Then in May he announced that BN has identified over 1,000 names to fill parliamentary and state seats for the coming general election.
Therefore the initial “winnable list” having two or three names now has more possibilities and each hopeful feels that he or she is more winnable then the other.
BN component party members are ill-prepared too
Najib knows that both MCA and Gerakan would not be able to help win the GE-13 because the Chinese will sway towards the opposition and Gerakan is practically a gone case. Lately Najib has also pointed out that every BN component party can put their case to be allocated any particular seat that they really can win. This indirectly means Najib wants all the seats with Malay majority be given to UMNO. But who in MCA, Gerakan and PPP even, would want to give up the seats traditionally allocated for them?
MIC is a different case because the Indian voters can be swayed around, even with empty promises and what more if the promise is really true! To win more votes from the Indians Najib will make MIC happy with more seats for MIC everywhere especially Selangor. But unfortunately MIC has not been able to find any winnable candidates amongst the Indian community because like UMNO, MIC has not been recruiting bright, young leaders.
Najib has not been able to put all his people in the relevant positions yet
The infighting in UMNO has now reached the boiling point whereby we have heard of the Perlis Menteri Besar Isa Sabu is being challenged. He has been accused of having a dubious doctorate degree and has been said to be chosen by Badawi and not by the majority of UMNO people in Perlis.
In Johore UMNO Youth leaders are openly squabbling for positions.
Isa Samad who initially preferred to be the Menteri Besar of Negeri Sembilan has now eyeing for a federal seat so that he can be the minister in charge of FELDA which is more lucrative it seems. But he still wants his proxy to control Negeri Sembilan and has instigated that Muhammad Hasan the current MB to be transferred to the federal seat to just be an ordinary MP. Indeed Isa Samad does have a strong grab on Najib.
Ali Rustam the Chief Minister of Melaka is not safe too. He is Mahathir’s man. He could be replaced with Idris Haron the Tangga batu MP. Najib is obviously trying to put his people in the relevant positions albeit unsuccessfully.
While Najib has tried to have his own choice, it was Mahathir who said after delivering the address at the “Global Culture Generates World Unity” symposium in Ayer Keroh in March this year that, “ UMNO must consider fielding talented outsiders with a clean record in the next general election. Umno should apply meritocracy when deciding on candidates for the polls”. He added, “What is wrong with fielding someone from outside (the party) who is capable and free from corruption and other problems?”
Previously Mahathir lamented that UMNO has no bright young leaders. Therefore when Tengku Adnan announced that “there were names of candidates who were not even in the Umno division”, Najib realized that he had been had.
Early this year Najib laid out the time table for the various UMNO meetings to select new office bearers starting from the branches which should have been held between 1st April and 15th June, while the divisions will be held from 1st July to 15th September. However none of the meetings have been held to date. The present office bearers simply do not want to lose their position. But this has not improved things either but has made the situation more complicated.
Factions in UMNO
Since Najib had been had by Mahathir, who managed to put his people in the list as announced by Tengku Adnan, Najib too is now busy looking for fresh, clean, reliable, winnable and loyal candidates. He has not been able to put his men in the proper positions and he also has doubts in their loyalty of the present ones. Well since he was in power for 22 years, Mahathir has more money and he is focused on creating a clear path for Mukhriz to be the future Prime Minister.
Najib has now sent a second group of trusted lieutenants to pick the candidates and what is more sinister about it is that Najib is adamant to bring in news faces many more than expected. Najib is choosing the seniors from the hardworking party workers themselves rather than their ambitious leaders but unknown to the voters. Najib goes straight down to the branches by-passing the divisions since most of the divisions have probably been bought by Mahathir. Moreover the price is cheaper when dealing with those in the branches, affordable to Najib. Najib has to move fast as time is not on his side for anything either.
This is going to stir more troubles in UMNO because Najib may not be able to pacify all of the obvious incumbents in the divisions who Najib is now doubtful of their loyalty.
Indeed Najib is holding on to his mandate but since he is a slow decision maker, the infighting in UMNO is at the boiling point, with the rest of the BN component parties in bad shape and Mahathir has made his moves, the result is, UMNO/BN will not be fully prepared even until the 11th hour for the GE-13. The much touted “winnable list” will eventually be the “doomed list”.