The practice of politics is often understood as being about painstaking calculation, labored alliance building and the clever use of power to grant and withhold favours in order to extract advantage. Complex race equations, the understanding of ground level realities, the weighing of who needs to be backed against whom when – these are some of the common skills that every party employs particularly when it comes to the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics. And yet, after all these exertions, what often ends up being decisive is not the cleverness of the strategies employed, but the inexorable pull of the political instincts that drive key political players.At the individual level too, instinct can often become a double-edged sword.Najib understands strength and its construction and projection better than virtually anybody else. The combination of hauteur, studied silence, and a belief in the virtues of uncompromising discipline serve to create an aura around him that puts him above everyone else by a distance. The instinct is to not engage with and be answerable to the controversies and issues of the day, and put a high price on his attention. While overall, this instinct has served him well, on the race question, an intervention by him at an early stage could have rescued the party’s attempts to build bridges. In a larger sense too, his unwillingness to rein in his perennially and indiscriminately aggressive support base has hurt the perceptions around his government. Given the fact that the pas’s cultural project has not been particularly useful electorally, PAS’s reluctance to confront his base is rooted more in instinct than calculation.
But while the plight that the party finds itself in has a lot to do with a lack of instinct, the fact that it is unable to pull itself together has a lot to do with the one remaining instinct that it is beholden to- the need to preserve and protect Razak family. The only time that the party truly comes to life is when it rises to defend the family- if the party showed as much animation in playing the role of the Opposition in the streets as it does in asserting that Najib was not asleep in Parliament, perhaps it would not be in terminal decline.
Having a strong political instinct based on deep ideological belief has its advantages of course, and one has only to look as far as UMNO to see how damaging not having a strong political instinct can be. Over the years, umno has, by virtue of having hollowed out meaning from everything that it once believed in and stood for, Malay in patronage, eking out expedient negotiations and cobbling together alliances based largely on mutual greed. The lack of any coherent and transformative political ideal that it can build a platform around has made the party largely irrelevant at a time when voter motivations are evolving READ MORE PAS instinct trap a question one man ambition?