Signs are clear that BN is slowing breaking apart. Most of the key component parties in the coalition are facing internal crisis. The crisis was a pent up frustration generated from the last general election in 2008.
The new MCA leadership under the much respected Ong Tee Keat has to carry the party's past baggage which has developed into some ugly controversies for himself. The PKFZ scandal is a make or break for Ong. He should be applauded for supporting a release of the PwC audit report which has implicated several BN politicians and exposed gross mismanagement of the free zone.
However, the public will judge him based on the actions that will soon be taken against the perpetrators. Based on several high profile exposes in the past, the public is growing sceptical of the government's ability and willingness to haul up those whose were implicated in the scandals - V.K Lingam, Kugan, IPCMC et cetera.
Ong has urged the government to take a stern action against those who were allegedly involved in the PKFZ fiasco which may cost the public more than RM12 billion over the next 30 years. However, Ong should be reminded that he is part of the government too and a number of personalities named in the report were leaders of his party.
MCA crisis is deeper than merely the PKFZ scandal. Until now, the new leadership has yet to inspire a turnaround for the party. The Bukit Gantang by-election was a good indication for MCA on the level of Chinese community support it is currently enjoying. Anything below 50 percent should be taken as a crisis for the party. In that by-election, BN only managed less than 20 percent of Chinese votes.
MCA is also facing an image crisis. It is seen as a conservative, haggard and 'old' party. The party's rebranding exercise was disrupted by the continuous spat between Ong and his deputy Chua Soi Lek. Ong's frustration was shown in his responses to the press which had painted him as an arrogant, blunt and 'cocky' leader. A number of leaders I have spoken to opined that MCA did not do enough in BN to push for a permanent change in the coalition. A number of them are also growing tired of the spat.
Ong's task in the next year is crucial. He has to find a way to carefully manage the PKFZ scandal. This scandal will test his skills as a minister and a senior executive in the cabinet. He would need to inspire his party members and leaders to rally around him for the transformation of the party. To do so, the leader must not be caught in his own leadership trap and he should be made aware of attempts to keep him isolated from the grassroots and voters.
Ong needs to change his leadership image. He needs to make a connection to the younger generation. Failing to do so may cost his party more seats in the next general election. At present, it is simply not cool to become a MCA member. Previously, Ong had proposed a new multiracial political model which can be adopted by his party. Unfortunately, like many of his personal agenda this was equally disrupted and distracted by the crises he has to deal with now.
MIC is suffering from the years of strong leadership under its current president Samy Vellu. After losing his Sungai Siput stronghold, Samy should have done the right thing to make way for a new generation of leaders. However, the feisty leader had decided to stay on for an additional term which his party can ill afford. Samy's rebranding exercise is more hot air than results. He had wanted to recruit thousands of new members but with competition getting keener from new emerging Indian-based parties and Hindraf, it is difficult to see how MIC can attract more (quality) members if everything else remains the same.
Over the last months, the MIC had tried to capitalize on the campaign to seek the release of Hindraf 5. Ironically, it was Samy who had tried to link the leaders to a terrorist group, LTTE. The release of all Hindraf leaders and their reluctance to join hands with him had disappointed Samy. He criticized Uthayakumar and a few key Hindraf leaders soon after their release. MIC is now back to its hollow politics. It needs to find the next struggle which could inspire young Indians to join the party. It is suffering from the same old age effect faced by MCA.
Gerakan's fate was sealed when its key leaders quit or distance themselves from the party. Koh Tsu Koon is suffering from the same sense of denial like Samy Vellu when he accepted a position in the cabinet and to head the Penang BN. It is unlikely that Koh is capable of winning any parliamentary seat in the state. His 18 years leadership came to a cruel end when his party was completely rejected by voters in the last general election. Until today, Koh had yet to admit full responsibility for Gerakan weak and egoistic campaign in Penang.
Penang Gerakan is heading for a split when two factions (headed by Teng Hock Nan and Huan Cheng Guan) are at loggerheads over the appointment of coordinators for the party's 13 state constituencies and 4 parliamentary seats. Both leaders are not expected to make an impact in the next general election despite who is tasked to helm the state leadership. Both of them were defeated in their stronghold. Huan had directly attack the leadership for not making way for younger set of leaders. His criticism was directed at both Teng and Koh. Penang MCA made a similar objection when Koh was appointed the BN state chief.
UMNO appears to be the last man standing in the coalition. However, the party has traditionally known to be factional and controlled by regional warlords. UMNO's insistence of using all available state coercive power to pounce on its political opponents may prove to be its biggest downfall in the Peninsula.
Can Najib's 1Malaysia inspire his party, coalition and most importantly Malaysians?