Is Anwar ready for Najib’s psychological war?
COMMENT The 13th general election will be a battle of wits. Every national leader has his own ways and means to succeed in the arena of politics and power.
The main criteria in the assessment of a national leader’s performance is his ability to move the nation forward in the face of challenges or hold it together when great adversities befall the nation.
Ex-premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, though his government bore the hallmark of an undemocratic system intertwined with authoritarian rule and survived by the art of false leadership (deception), had managed to bring the nation to a greater height.
His successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi did not adopt the Mahathir doctrine and nor did he adopt good Islamic and universal values in his administration.
As such he did little in advancing the country and hence he is regarded by many as a failed leader.
Whereas Najib since taking over the premiership in 2009 has adopted a political system similar to that of Mahathir but intertwined with the art of psychological warfare to enable him to hold on to power and ward off opponents within Umno and the opposition
Todate his performance is similar to Abdullah, wherein he is yet to show any ability to improve the economic and national fundamentals.
But herein lies the difference.
Najib has a special wit and knowledge of psychological warfare. He is using it to win the hearts and minds of the people and to beat his political adversaries.
In the presentation of the 2012 national budget, he unveiled both the budget and his veiled strategy which went unnoticed though the opposition had some misgivings about it.
That strategy came out in the open in the not guilty verdict handed out by the High Court judge on Jan 9, 2012.
After the 2008 general election, Najib who was the then deputy prime minister had already laid a witty plan to neutralise the opposition.
He needed to trap Anwar early, meaning by the time he became premier, Anwar will be half way stuck in a long court battle to the advantage of Najib.
Unlike Mahathir’s ploy in the Anwar Sodomy 1 trial where the former wanted to get Anwar convicted for good, Najib just wanted to buy time.
In the Anwar Sodomy II trial , the verdict showed that Najib did not want to convict Anwar outright but to go for a bigger kill later.
Najib’s plan was to first initiate a charge that would initially jeorpardise Anwar’s and Pakatan’s credibility in terms of leadership and ability to provide an alternative government respectively.
Whilst Anwar and Pakatan are busy with this, Najib focuses on Umno. He knows Umno has been struggling with the leadership and credibility troubles especially after 2008 and needs time to recover.
The verdict that Anwar was not guilty of the Sodomy II charge caught many by surprise. Many views have been put forth, as to who is the winner, loser in this case.
Najib, has the upperhand
Unbelieving, as it may be, such a straight forward court verdict could have many implications
Among them are:
i) The two year long trial has worn Anwar down mentally and physically. Consequently the Pakatan being dependent on Anwar as the supremo of the opposition coalition and provider of their sole leadership is in a weakened state.
ii) The not guilty verdict will have three psychological effects – Firstly that the judiciary under Najib is proven independent and fair.
Secondly on May 16, 2011, the High Court judge ruled that the victim Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan was a credible witness. But when he changed his mind and acquitted and discharged Anwar on Jan 9.
With this decision, the judge left in people’s mind the impression that he was biased and unjust to the victim Saiful Bukhari.
Thirdly should Anwar be found guilty, then it is confirmed that the judiciary under the Najib government is not independent and fair and this will definitely swing the people’s support away to the Pakatan in the 13th GE.
iii) In the first round of Anwar Sodomy II trial, Najib allowed Anwar to win in law but the former has scored a victory in the psychological warfare to win the hearts and minds of the people.
Should the prosecution file an appeal, it would appear they are seeking justice for the victim and not to get at Anwar. It is Saiful who wants justice.
There is a strong possibility the prosecution may file an appeal. The probability that the verdict could be overturned will definitely break Anwar and the opposition.
The victory would legally and psychologically go to Najib .
No polls yet
Najib will be ready to dissolve the Parliament, only when he has won this battle.
Hence I believe the general election will be put on hold. The 2012 budget as many people know is an election budget .
However what constitutes a decisive strategy is that the many goodies promised such as the salary increase and bonus to about 1.3 million civil servants and all kinds of financial assistance given to the poor families, university students, parents of primary and secondary pupils, ex-servicemen, taxi owners, Felda settlers and others will greatly influence the voting trend in the 13th GE in favour of the BN.
If you include the spouses and adult family members of these people, the benefits would cover a very large segment of the country’s voters.
These direct financial assistance by the Najib government will have a big influencial impact on the people’s minds.
The flooding of goodies is a psychological edge for Najib and a pleasant confusion for voters.
Such a political ploy will work for BN in the run up to the 13th GE.
Other moves to consolidate Najib’s power:
i) The conviction and one year jail term of former Selangor menteri besar Khir Toyo shows the Najib government is serious about eradicating corruption among politicians.
ii) The move to get as many local artistes to join Umno is in fact to get the support of thousands of their fans throughout the country to vote for BN.
Can Anwar handle Najib?
Anwar is no expert in psychological warfare though as a political fighter he can endure the kind of mental and physical pressures and risks set upon by his enemies which is quite an exceptional feat.
Anwar however is an expert in the strategy of politics of exposure.
Najib knows Umno has left many economic and political ills in its’ trails which Anwar has picked up and exposed to the full.
Such strategy has a very big political impact as proven in the 2008 GE.
Just after the verdict was announced on Jan 9, 2012 , Anwar boastfully said that he would topple the corrupt government of Najib.
Do you think Najib, the sly politician, will allow Anwar to do what is unthinkable to Umno?
Anwar should have reserved his statement.There are still many unfinished businesses in the run-up to the 13th GE.
We are yet to see the kind of undemocratic feats Najib will unleash should Umno’s defeat appear imminent.
Hearing the verdict on Jan 9, 2012, I now believe Najib is capable of committing the unexpected and is moving away from conventional strategies of political war.
Awang Abdillah is a political analyst, writer and FMT columnist.