In the aftermath of a poor showing at the March 8 General Elections, BN component parties have been remarkably low-key in their review of the debacle. Even in the context of UMNO, the movements of the second-tier leaders and their aspirations are clouded by the larger stage dominated by the perceived challenges faced by the party president and deputy president.
If there have been any serious reviews made within the other major BN parties like the MCA, Gerakan and MIC, such reviews have been kept under a tight wrap. It would seem that, in the face of adversity, the BN components have chosen to hold the thinned "dark blue line" of BN under a veneer of civility and genteel conduct.
Will this change as the party elections for each BN component draws nearer?
MCA party elections
In an interview with Malaysiakini's Stanley Koh entitled, MCA's lone ranger: Pacts ain't my style, the perceived front-runner, Ong Tee Keat, has maintained his non-factionalised posture. The current perception is that Ong Tee Keat may be more acceptable to the erstwhile factions of Ong Ka Ting and Chan Kong Choy when compared with the unannounced candidacies of Dr Chua Soi Lek and Chua Jui Meng. We should not forget the likelihood of Ong Ka Chuan joining the fray with his considerable behind-the-scenes prowess.
MIC: No leadership change
In the case of the MIC, there is a paradoxical situation where the long-serving president, Samy Vellu, has now declared himself to be the agent of change. This raises the logical and relevant question of; what if Samy Vellu is the main cause of MIC's current problems?
Gerakan: Decent but subordinate
Gerakan's pedigree is impeccable. This is the party that used to house the Socialist leaders and their intellectual ideals. But having been an appendage of the BN for nearly 4 decades, Gerakan has calcified into a party that is subservient to UMNO. Against the charisma of Lim Guan Eng and the Pakatan state government in Penang, none of the Gerakan leaders are able to muster a coherent response so far.
The end of BN component parties
Obituaries are premature. The astute observers would point out the franchise strength of the divisional and branch networks of these BN components. Parties like the MCA have very respectable memberships exceeding 1 million. Their war-chests are considerable.
Perhaps, in all 3 parties canvassed above, the driving need is for the rise of a leader or a grouping of leaders that are able to acquire the spine to deal with UMNO at a level of mutual respect (as opposed to grovelling subervience); and, leaders who can sketch out and, later, flesh out a clear direction for the party to regain lost "market share" among voters.
But, the biggest challenge is for these BN components, who are part of a coalition with overt communal designs, to rise above communalistic politics to embrace multiracialism.
Is M'sia at the cusp of a true multiracial political framework?
The concern about whether M'sia is nearer to multiracial politics arises from the ongoing "talks" between a faction of PAS with UMNO on Malay unity. See http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/86542 and, particularly, Karim Raslan's take on it at the Star Online opinion piece, Nasharudin Mat Isa and Malay unity.
In this milieu, it will take the correct leaders to the MCA, MIC and Gerakan to engender multiracialism, unless their interests lie elsewhere... In the context of the MCA, is Ong Tee Keat the correct leader for the times?
UPDATE 7.30 p.m. The indications appear to be an Ong Tee Keat-Liow Tiong Lai ticket which would tend to confirm that outgoing President, Ong Ka Ting, favours Tee Keat for the MCA presidency. Read Malaysian Insider's report. It looks as though the Lone Ranger, having possibly found Tonto need not ride alone! To paraphrase Lord Palmerston; Politicians have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.