Friday, March 04, 2016

Malaysia: Najib The (Unfortunate) Survivor


It has all appalled many urban and professional Malaysians. It has also made stars of the government's most vocal critics. At the forum in Petaling Jaya, fans seeking selfies crowd around Tony Pua, an opposition MP whom police have banned from leaving the country; at dinner afterwards people at neighbouring tables insist on paying for his meal.
 
Malaysia is "essentially two countries", says Ben Suffian, a pollster. Outrage is widespread in the cities, with growing numbers of young, liberal ethnic-Malays as well as most of the ethnic-Chinese and ethnic-Indian minorities who make up about a third the population. It is rarer in UMNO's rural heartlands, where apathy is rife and where the party is trusted to defend racial laws designed to give the ethnic-Malay majority a leg-up.
 
Over the decades this rural voter base has helped keep UMNO in power. Indeed party leaders have been more concerned to protect themselves from challenges from within UMNO. Loyalty is prized over ability, while patronage and convoluted party rules discourage upstarts. Mr Najib has been playing the system more ruthlessly than many imagined. Recent sackings of subordinates have sent a signal about who is boss.

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