Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: Of things unseen yet

DEC 31 — Happy New Year! malaysianinsider

The year is getting into its final sprint and 2010 is on everyone’s mind. So here’s a list of things likely to find space in our political pages with some prognoses.

Paying more for less, the GST comes along

The Bill will pass, and Malaysians will pay more with the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The Inland Revenue Department is still uncertain if income tax rates will drop with the introduction of the new system.

Even if there will be adjustments — though the quantum would be minimal — to our income tax rates to accommodate the GST levy, you can’t hide the fact that people still don’t like taxes. It is about the only thing that gets universal attention in a society when it comes to full effect.

It is a lose-lose for many. Those earning under RM2,500 who are now tax-exempt will find themselves taxed through their purchases. However, expect the interest levels to increase towards the end of 2010 as it becomes a reality for early 2011 — unless the opposition stirs up this hornet’s nest early and constantly.

Which is why BN looks at this issue quite gravely as it knows this is a “vote” landmine. You can blow up whole constituencies by placing burdens directly on the lower-income homes.

Many competent governments in the developing and developed world have lost power when they raised taxes, and competent is what the BN government is every other day.

The older deputy prime minister, not entourage material

Two quick things about Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. He has great clout inside Umno and does not aspire to be Tun Ghafar Baba — the docile number two of the 80s and 90s who just followed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Being 62 — seven years older than Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — creates the urgency for him to set an agenda for his own political future. Equally, him being the de facto leader of Johor — the Number One Umno state — does ruffle Najib.

Muhyiddin’s justified to think the Education portfolio is a speed-bump for him, as such he’s unlikely to be faulted if he were to set some challenges for his party president.

Already in the BTN issue, it is clear Najib and Muhyiddin have different ideas about Malay leadership of the BN.

The dissent in the party might grow after a relatively quiet period since Najib’s takeover, but economic and power distribution issues are always present inside Umno and they will raise questions of leadership mantle in 2010

Anwar: Goes past Pall Mall, does not go to jail

A guilty verdict is improbable. Sending the leader of the opposition to jail will hurt Pakatan Rakyat substantially, but so will Malaysia get hurt in that scenario. There is too much international support for the Permatang Pauh MP and the nature of the charge makes First World and Islamic nations queasy.

2010 is not the year for the Najib administration to grapple with major foreign consternation.

The prevailing perception in and out of the country? Any adverse verdict for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a conscious choice by the BN government even if the courts may claim independence.

Plus there is a sneaky suspicion the objective of the prosecution was to deflate the opposition’s confidence and its demands for more power following Election 2008. The sodomy allegations and ensuing drama did distract the nation and the Pakatan Rakyat parties.

Objective achieved, next year BN will have to move on.

PKFZ blown to bits here and there

The PKFZ has seen its first arrests, and more will follow in 2010. Billions of missing ringgit must show many fingerprints.

The real question is will the state sift through evidence to nab the bigger fish?
More information will emerge as those caught first will not be philosophical about the others who do get away. More will be implicated, but will the political will commensurate with the discoveries?

The likelier outcome would be the prosecution of those prominent enough but without present political capital.

One lawmaker, however, believes that a former transport minister will be brought in by the police, at least for questioning in 2010.

Nik Aziz — louder as he plans his departure?

Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat has never been more critical of his party men as he has been in 2009. More to come in 2010.

Suspicions are the spiritual leader of the party is setting an exit strategy for himself after a long distinguished service to the party and wants to set things right before he becomes only spiritual leader without a political role.

Nik Aziz demanded an EGM to remove the “trouble-makers” not too long after party polls. He has continuously rejected any compromise with Umno. But the Kelantan mentri besar has made up his mind and he will grow louder once the matter with his son-in-law Ariffahmi Abdul Rahman dissipates.

However, Nik Aziz won’t find it easy. The perpetual schism in the party — since intellectual honesty is lacking inside the leadership circle — of whether PAS is for Muslim rule or Malay nationalism is to be waffled through by the players.

2010 may end up being a frustrating time for Nik Aziz.

Teoh Beng Hock: Justice will be delayed

The inquest will end, and the public will be more convinced of foul play.

But where to next? This one is tricky, and the answer might be in prolonging the issue in terms of process until there is less interest in the case. That we get tired of the various twists and turns without an outcome.

This is probably the game plan for 2010 unless Najib decides to get a fresh electoral mandate in 2011. You don’t want proximity between the conclusion of the Teoh case to occur less than a year before polls. They made a mistake by asking voters their sentiments less than six months after the Bersih and Hindraf rallies, they would loathe a repeat.

An outcome in 2010 might mean a very interesting 2011.

MCA: My party my party, my party for an EGM

It won’t stop with an EGM happening or not. If anything the “political plays” employed by the various factions — trust me there are more than three — underlines only one certainty, that there will be more in 2010.

There will be departures from the party. When a fracture of the magnitudes we are witnessing occurs and the sides dug in with conviction, then there will be a winner and the losers must leave. It cannot be a case of reconciling.

That will lead to talks about BN-friendly options for the defeated or even a crossover, the latter being far less likely.

The proximity of the party to the PKFZ “situation” will add to the drama and cross-causalities bring in further casualties.

Makkal Sakti, still power to the people?

MIC, PKR, DAP, Gerakan, PSM and even IPF have a stake in the hearts and minds of the Indian labour class. Makkal Sakti party and Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia are just extensions of the angst of a people for being displaced comprehensively in the only country they know as home.

No party drives the collective frustrations of almost a tenth of Malaysia, they merely ride it. Even the five who went to prison for the Hindraf rally — who must be honoured — did not shape the feelings of the people, they just led a feeling long seething, and still seethes.

2010 will not see a collapse of Indian support for the Pakatan Rakyat parties despite the emergence of a party named after the movement’s catchphrase. But it will see some of the contenders falling behind. The parties are unlikely to move closer based on shared aspirations, but the voters will move to one or the other. Look out for one of the new players and MIC slipping further.

Perak: Tired and bruised, but more to come

The BN government of Perak will not call for state elections in 2010 — no matter what the fellows before them endeavour.

But what will the Zambry administration do to get some breathing space finally? Both the BN and Pakatan blokes in the silver state are both pressed, however the strain would show more on the BN guys since they are trying to run a government while seeking legitimacy, with those they replaced screaming murder in the background.

2010 will not decide the political battle, but many watching will tire.

And at the end…

2010 might end up being the middle episode for a trilogy — just like 2009, for a possible climax of events in 2011-2012.

But if you like chess games then do your own adding up of what transpires in the coming year. Happy New Year, once again!