Zambry Hitting The Right Notes

Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir strikes a most likeable figure in Malaysian politics. Thrust into the national limelight as the MB who was always going to bear the brunt of Pakatan anguish at having to lose the state they won by vote, BN could not have picked a more apt person to take the hits and still come out smiling knowing that his moves are improving BN’s chances of winning the next elections, outright.

From the development plans he laid out soon after taking office to the increased foreign investments that the state has been receiving, the facts show that Zambry’s stint as MB has been beneficial to the people of Perak – although much of these plans will only bear fruit in the medium to long run.

Yet his public remarks reveal a man who is not likely to be getting carried away anytime soon. Early in October, Zambry stated that he will not treat any constituency as black or white, because in politics nothing is ever fixed. He rightly pointed out that seats Perak BN may feel are traditionally safe could be lost in one election cycle just as they happened throughout the country in 2008.

Similarly, Zambry noted that a wrong attitude would be to write off certain constituencies as unwinnable because that would only be a self-fulfilling prophecy – if no work is done on the ground to win over people in a certain area then it would most certainly remain unwinnable.

Zambry appears to also have the Perak BN ship under control. October saw Zambry, as BN state chairman, strike an understanding between all the coalition members in Perak regarding seats allocations in the coming GE. Nevermind that Perak Pakatan Rakyat are beset by problems in precisely that area, one cannot imagine that many other states – BN or Pakatan – have managed to sort out that most thorny issue of seats allocation. The fact that Perak appears to have done it so early suggests a leader who commands the respect and loyalty of Perak BN politicians – across party lines.

And why wouldn’t you, with Zambry also being one of the few UMNO leaders to actually give credit to MCA, acknowledging that the Chinese party is doing much at the grassroots level to win the support of the people. Ever since the disastrous results in 2008, the ensuing scandal involving the sitting MCA President and the circus that was the MCA elections, it has been customary for UMNO to take shots at the second largest party in the coalition. Many would readily point out that UMNO did not lose many seats in 2008 – it was the likes of MCA, MIC and Gerakan who weren’t pulling their weight for the BN team.

You wouldn’t hear that from Zambry. His calm demeanour and likeable personality – whether in person or in the state assembly where ruckus is commonplace – is consistent with a politician who displays sound judgment, foresight and leadership. A messy situation where BN looked to be the desperate thieves of the crown has now turned out in such a way that it is Nizar and Pakatan that appear conniving, bitter and at times childish.

But because of this level-headedness, Zambry will also understand the enormity of the challenge that remains. One suspects many remain very upset with the idea that the government voted in lasted a year before the politicians’ game excluded their voice and changed the equation altogether.

Under these circumstances, BN’s chances will continue to depend on Zambry’s ability to sell the idea to all Perakians that his leadership is the better option than any that Pakatan can offer. And in that sense, trumpeting development or welfare plans that only impact a section of Perakians directly, is just one aspect of the whole story. More importantly, Zambry must continue to be the unity figure – reaching out to all Perakians with a consistent message that Perak is prospering under his leadership and that all communities’ concerns are being addressed in a fair-handed manner. This same approach to all the different stakeholders he engages with as BN state chairman, as UMNO state liaison chief and ultimately as Menteri Besar, will give Perak BN the best shot at retaining the silver crown.

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