|Euphoria that soon soured|
Pakatan Rakyat leaders accused Prime Minister Najib Razak of chickening on a potential acid test of his popularity and political strength after Perak prosecutors U-turned on pressing charges against Tebing Tinggi assemblyman Ong Boon Piow that could trigger a landmark by-election.
"Not only is Najib afraid to rake up the people's unhappiness over their loss of democracy, a by-election loss would show where he really stands in the people's esteem. It will have striking implications not just for Perak politics but for Najib's own position in Umno," PKR vice president Lee Boon Chye told Malaysia Chronicle.
"So far, he has been trying to perpetuate the belief that he is personally popular even if Umno is not. But we believe they are both unpopular. Once Umno leaders know for sure this is true and the next general election is just two years away, he will face a stiff challenge in the Umno general assembly next year."
Perakians have not forgotten
Ong was due to be charged for video-taping the Pakatan state assembly meeting held under a rain tree last year. On March 3, 2009, Pakatan lawmakers were forced to hold the emergency session after they were physically barred from entering the legislative hall in the Perak Darul Ridwan state secretariat building.
|Under a tree and fully robed, Siva began the process of democracy|
However, in a surprise U-turn Perak prosecutors deferred the charges to an unspecified date sparking speculation that Prime Minister Najib Razak was not keen to risk a contest that may show up the rising unpopularity of his administration. "They are waiting for further instructions from Putrajaya," Ong told Malaysiakini.
“A by-election would surely vindicate us. Najib must be dreaming if he thinks the Perak people have forgotten the kurang-ajar way in which he stole their democracy or believe they have accepted Zambry,” former Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin told Malaysia Chronicle.
“The truth is Perak people see in Najib a PM who has few achievements but only major scandals to show for his time in office. They see in Zambry a usurper who forced himself on them against their wishes. In just slightly over a year, Zambry has already been accused of granting land titles to his cronies, can you imagine?”
A real acid test
In February 2009, Najib had orchestrated a coup d’etat against the Pakatan state government by enticing three defectors – two from PKR and one from DAP - to support the BN in the legislative assembly.
|Nizar: The people have not forgotten and will never forget|
Pakatan insiders told Malaysia Chronicle that apart from not wanting to rake up the people's unhappiness with him, Najib was also feeling jittery because Ong might shock everyone by pleading guilty and triggering the by-election that he feared above all.
After taking over as prime minister in April 2009, opinion polls show Najib’s popularity has shot to 72 percent from 44 percent. But few Malaysians believe the survey results and a Perak by-election would be taken as the real acid-test of his strength or weakness.
“Of course, Ong is innocent but it shows how paranoid Umno is. It is a sure sign of their guilty conscience,” Nizar said.