The outcome of KT by-election, either way, can be considered a win-win situation for Malaysians. It does not have to be a win-lose scenario.
If BN wins, the outcome should be taken as a firm reminder to PR to put their own house in order first. Strategy is important but using the same strategy in all battles may not be wise. It was possible during the last general election to stroke voters' sentiment and dissatisfaction against UMNO to win but this method is expected to lose its lustre in the next GE.
It is pertinent for PR to transition from being an opposition front into a real alternative. It should position itself as a government in-waiting. It is easy for both Lim Kit Siang and Anwar Ibrahim to continue harping on UMNO weaknesses and arrogance. But is time for the two influential leaders to lead the formation of alternative policies and development strategy for Malaysia. During this challenging economic situation, these alternative policies will be able to allow Malaysians to gauge their ability to govern if given a mandate at the federal level.
PR is a WIP coalition, unlike BN. The latter is facing an expiry that it must be bold enough to embark on an internal change. However, unlike BN, the former does not have a long experience and a goodwill reservoir to boast.
Despite all the weaknesses shown by the ruling coalition, BN still captures the people's nostalgia about its past achievements - got the nation its independence from British and provided more than 50 years of leadership which has taken us thus far. Many of us who have been around the region fully acknowledged that we could be better but not really as bad as we imagined.
But BN is facing a serious threat of being both legthargic and outdated. BN's biggest threat is not the opposition consists of PAS, DAP and PKR. These parties were around during the 1999 and 2004 general elections but were squarely defeated by the BN juggernauts. BN's biggest threat is its own follies.
Not limited to UMNO, most component parties in the coalition had practiced feudal and parochial politics. Many smaller parties have turned into ruling dynasties which choose to put family lineage higher than individual ability and leadership. When self-interest precedes political objection, the struggle becomes internalised and not people driven.
BN leadership is suffering from this serious disconnection with the public. In the last 10 years, Malaysia has been going through the toughest and challenging times since independence. Malaysians are largely grateful and respectful of the ruling elites. This respect has been received wrongly by the ruling elites. Many have grown to become arrogant, elitist and disengaged from the society thinking that the support is perpetual and a birth right.
Hence, up till today, many component parties' leaders still refused to accept that finally the people have lost their patience. Their goodwill reservoir is quickly drying up. These governing dynasties should have learned a lesson from other ancient dynasties. Powerful dynasties were defeated into oblivion when they started to ignore the people.
PR represents change and a new hope for the people. Malaysians, like other societies, need a solid, trustworthy and responsible leadership. While it is hard for BN to accept change, PR has to embrace change as its main competitive advantage. Embracing change is not an easy thing if it is done half-heartedly. Anything done half-heartedly cannot be sustained.
Hence, if BN wins this election and we should not be overly surprised if it does happen, PR will be forced to go back to its drawing board to find out what went wrong. Many have suggested that a defeat may force PAS to reconsider its association with PR. If this happens, it will expose the lack of sincerity of PR partners. Come the next general election, PAS will find its progress curtailed and its political influence shored back to the Malay heartland. Both PKR and DAP will be back to square one.
It is easy to become a winner but can PR be a good loser too?
Next, PR and especially Anwar must strike a delicate balance between power and governance. The whole of 2008 after the 8th March, it was all about power through the backdoor, frontdoor and whichever way imaginable. Many Malaysians eager for a change especially those who have long endured the irresponsible rule of BN, went out of the way trying to justify possible crossovers. Never mind the intention as long as BN goes down.
It is time for PR to snap out of its own delusion and be grateful of the gains it has made from the last general election. While many want it to be successful, it must show that the coalition is in for a long haul and not to abandon ship if it loses a by-election and not successful in courting defectors. Malaysians want political commitment and sincerity.
If PR wins, the BN should really push the panic button and snap out of their own delusion that the outcome of 8th March is both temporary and a technical setback. BN's biggest problem is the lack of discipline and political vision.
UMNO only wants to be the dominant party. It will try to dominate using whatever ways including both racism and religious politicking to achieve its agenda. UMNO thinks as a party and not as a leader of a coalition which is problematic for its ever obliging component parties.
If BN loses, other component parties and including the more enlightened faction in UMNO (if any) should push for a major reform within the ruling coalition. Given the mandate to rule for the last 50 years, it is odd that the coalition did not do much to facilitate nation building beyond the current race silos. Odd enough, its main survival depends on its ability to transform itself as a racist coalition into a truly multiracial coalition.
If BN can use this by-election as an indication and a self measurement, it can still provide a strong and reliable leadership to Malaysians. In a shifting political milieu, BN is still a powerful coalition with key advantages which may take PR another 3-4 terms to emulate.
However, if this by-election goes its way and the outcome is taken as everything is back to business as usual then KT may yet be a double edged sword for BN. Whatever the outcome, if the results is taken rightly by both coalition, Malaysians are bound to benefit from a positive change.
Meanwhile, PR must not let this win to go its head and start to think act princely. The outcome of such action is clear. It just has to look at BN.
We have entered a communicative era of leadership with the advent of Internet. Both coalitions must be prepared for talk back and greater scrutiny from the public.