Shadows of Ross Perot? – By Oon Yeoh, The Sun

(Wed, 24 Nov 2010)

ROSS Perot is an American billionaire who ran for president of the United States in 1992 and 1996. He made quite a splash initially as a kind of third force, an alternative choice for voters who were sick of Republicans and Democrats.

But his flame quickly burned out after voters got a better sense of his cranky, egotistical personality. If you read the entry about Perot in RealChange.org, a website that offers highly opinionated commentary about the character of presidential candidates, you’ll see the following description:

“Ross Perot has a very distinct personality with three consistent qualities: An absolute conviction that he is morally right; an intense will that refuses to consider the possibility that he could be wrong, or could lose a fair fight; and a need to control every situation to fit these parameters … He refuses to admit wrongness or fair defeat, and if he can’t change reality in the broader world, he seems to need to change it in the press – or in his own mind.”

In New York Times’ columnist David Brook’s article “The Perot Option” (Jan 28), he warns of a Perot-like character as one who is “large of ego, full of money and cranky in mien”.

It’s amazing how these descriptions can easily fit Zaid Ibrahim, who first came to national political prominence after he resigned from the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration in 2008 after an opposition politician, a popular blogger and a reporter were detained under the dreaded ISA.

Many people saw something refreshing in a politician who had principles, was smart and articulate and who was rich enough that he would not be easily tempted by corrupt practices. When he joined PKR in 2009, he was heralded as the only other leader who could hold the fledgling Pakatan Rakyat together should its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim end up in jail again.

Zaid was good at building up his personal brand. He had a couple of books published in various languages. He posted progressive, liberal messages on his blog. He made sure he commented on national issues regularly. He was clearly positioning himself as not just a PKR leader but a national leader.

But cracks started to show which revealed some unappealing aspects of his character. Amid a spat with his arch-rival Azmin Ali late last year, Zaid abruptly announced that he would be taking a six-month leave during which time he would not be attending the party’s political bureau meetings.

“I have no interest in the internal politics of PKR, nor of any of the other parties in Pakatan Rakyat. Neither do I aspire to assume a leadership role in PKR. I made this very clear to Anwar Ibrahim when I joined the party,” he said at the time.

Some people thought, what a prima donna. And others who had hope in him gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Zaid was PKR’s candidate in the Hulu Selangor by-election in April. After he lost, he blamed everyone but himself and even filed an election petition to nullify the by-election, alleging bribery by Barisan Nasional (BN).

Some people thought, sore loser! But his fans still gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Then in the run-up to the party elections where he ran against Azmin for the position of deputy president, he made offensive comments about outgoing deputy president Syed Husin Ali which left many people seriously wondering about his political acumen or lack thereof.

After pulling out from the party elections Zaid started lashing out at party leaders and condemning the very party he chose to join.

One would have thought that after letting off steam, he would cool down and try to make peace with his former colleagues so that even as an independent, he could continue to join them in their campaign to take over Putrajaya.

But no, he keeps on lashing out, dishing bitter criticism even during his press conference to announce his impending departure from the party.

Zaid also hints that he will be forming his own party and that it would not be allied to BN or PR. In other words, it would be a third force.

Can anybody say, “illusions of grandeur”? We barely have a two-party system after more than 50 years of independence and he wants to be a third force?

If he has enough hubris to actually pursue that fantasy, Zaid will very quickly find out that far from being a third force, he’s become a spent force. Just like Ross Perot.

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