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Thread: GE13: Umno relying more on rural Malay support, says James Chin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    GE13: Umno relying more on rural Malay support, says James Chin

    Umno relying more on rural Malay support, says writer

    MAY 14, 2013

    KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The results of the recent general election show that Umno is as strong as ever despite Barisan Nasional losing the popular vote, according to aStraits Times report today.

    Writing in the Singapore daily, James Chin, a senior visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas), argued that many Malaysians are misreading the situation and think that Umno is weak.

    He said Umno today is as strong as it was in 1971, adding that it is BN that is dying, not Umno.

    “The Malay heartland, all in rural areas, backed Umno and that is why it increased its number of parliamentary seats and why there is an Umno-alone government in Kuala Lumpur today,” he wrote.

    In his article, he gave a rundown of the evolution of Umno from its formation in 1946 under various leaders including Datuk Onn Jaafar, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and how the party has changed over the years.

    Chin wrote that the flaw in Dr Mahathir’s Malay state building was the scourge of money politics. “With so much money flowing out of the government into selected Umno elite, the competition became so intense that the only way to get support was to ‘buy’ support.”

    He said money politics in Umno was tolerated because it did not contradict Malay or Islamic dominance of the system. As long as the money did not threaten Umno or Ketuanan Melayu, it was seen as a necessary evil for the functioning of Umno.

    Chin also wrote that despite losing the two-thirds parliamentary majority in the 2008 general election, Umno failed to tackle the corruption issue or move to the middle ground. It cared only about control over Malay minds and control of the federal government.

    He argued that reforms undertaken after 2009 were mainly cosmetic and in the economic arena; real political reforms did not take place and that is why the urban polity rejected Umno this year.

    “For example, on the issue of Ketuanan Melayu, rather than deal with it, the party simply ‘subcontracted’ the work to Perkasa, a Malay right-wing organisation established after 2008.”

    He said the urban public did not buy the argument that Umno had reformed when Perkasa’s president and deputy president became BN candidates this year. It became clear that Umno would not change its political leanings.

    Chin said it has become increasingly clear in the past two decades that Umno is now BN and BN is Umno. Umno accounts for just less than half of Cabinet ministers. In Parliament, the overwhelming bloc within BN is always Umno. In 2008, Umno won 79 seats out of BN’s 140. This year, Umno won 88 out of BN’s 133 seats. In percentage terms, this translates to 56 per cent and 66 per cent respectively.

    “Today after 56 years of independence, Umno still controls the rural Malay mind. Yes, it is true Umno has lost control over large sections of the Malay community in urban areas. Under Malaysia’s electoral system, it is the rural seats that decide the federal government, not urban seats. Urban seats account for less than a quarter of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats while about 150 seats are Malay/Bumiputera-majority seats,” he wrote.

    Chin argued that Umno is unlikely to reform in time for the 14th GE, and does not need to. “As long as the first-past-the-post system continues to allot disproportionate weight to rural voters, all Umno has to do is to keep the fire of Ketuanan Melayu and Ketuanan Islam burning brightly in rural Malaysia,” he said.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Thursday, 25 July 2013 16:59Race politics gave BN the edge, say academics

    BN will be able to rule Malaysia for a long time through a deeply intense communal strategy that has re-emerged after the 13th general election.

    This also marks a move away from democracy in Malaysia, compared with the 2008 general election, academicians said after dissecting the GE13 results at a forum.

    "Whenever Umno makes Malays feel threatened, it benefits," said William Case, an American political scientist with the City University of Hong Kong.

    "Malaysian society is growing more differentiated and more complex, but ethnicity is still king. The crown is slipping but it has not fallen off yet."

    Calling the GE13 a setback for democracy, the speakers at the forum said the opposition did everything right but would still fail to topple the BN in future elections, unless the coming constitutency redelineation exercise diffuses racial voting lines in Malaysia.

    Case, who has observed Malaysian politics for more than 35 years, was one of 12 academicians who presented talks on the GE13 at the one-day forum on democracy held at Universiti Malaya.

    He labelled the GE13 as a "strange" one.

    "The opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat did win more seats and the popular vote but only DAP did well. BN lost but Umno had one of its best elections ever, gaining more votes from the Malays and has just one short of Pakatan's 88 seats," Case said.

    Case recalled that Umno was in a disarray after the "stunning" loss of the BN's two-thirds majority in Parliament in 2008, which then looked like it would usher in a two-party system in Malaysia.

    Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who took over the reins from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2009, had promised to unleash liberal reforms, abolish the Internal Security Act and provide more press freedom under his 1Malaysia campaign.

    Five years on, in the post-GE13 period, the picture is very different.

    Even though BN failed to wrest back its two-thirds majority in Parliament and its major component parties MCA and MIC suffered setbacks, Umno was "galvanised".

    "Umno is now arrogant and defiant, quite a change between 2008 and 2013... it looks like Malaysia has gone backwards," Case said.

    He said that Umno's success in GE13 was due to its return to its root strategy - to garner support primarily from lower income Malays in the smaller rural districts.

    "All in, Umno, except Najib, recognised that Chinese voters were lost, so Umno decided to go it alone and targeted PAS and DAP," he said. "The more DAP aroused the Chinese crowd, the more in need of Umno's protection that the 'little' Malays felt."

    Hardline trend

    Umno has shown a more hardline trend after GE13. Najib himself was wounded by the lack of Chinese support and labelled it "a Chinese tsunami," just after the election results were announced.

    Case cited the use of new coercive laws such as Peaceful Assembly Act, Sedition Act and new controls on the social media as examples of what appeared to be a reverse of Najib's previous democratic reforms.

    "Malaysia will settle back to its state as an 'electoral authoritarian' regime. Next year, it will be the 40th anniversary of that regime (first created in 1974, just after the May 13, 1969, racial riots) and in the world, only Singapore has done it longer," Case added.

    He concluded his 45-minute presentation on a pessimistic note that younger democracies, such as Myanmar and Indonesia, were now far ahead of Malaysia in 'procedural' democracy terms, where the people get to choose the government they want in free and fair elections.

    GE13 saw the highest voter turnout ratio since 1964, with almost 10.5 million votes cast. Pakatan, in its most united showing ever, raked in 53 percent of the popular votes compared with BN's 47 percent, but this did not translate into parliamentary seats.

    BN took 133 seats in Parliament, against Pakatan's 88 seats.

    "Why did BN win the election?" Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Elections (Umcedel) director Prof Mohd Redzuan Othman sked rhetorically.

    Drawing on election results data, Redzuan said ‘gerrymandering' played a key role.

    He said with a few exceptions to the rule, Pakatan won in the bigger constituencies while BN won in smaller constituencies. He said BN also won when a constituency had a majority of Malay voters.
    "It is very clear that for BN to win, it needed to have at least 66 percent Malay votes, unless it has a substantial number of Indian votes," Redzuan said.

    Redzuan also said Umcedel's survey of historical data unveiled that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak had the smallest mandate and poorest election showing compared with the first national election that each of the past five Malaysian leaders faced.

    Previous prime ministers had as much as 60 to 90 percent of the popular vote.

    As a sidenote, Redzuan said the Umdecel survey showed that posters and banners did not influence voters, citing Lembah Pantai as an example where BN flags were more visible, but the coalition still lost the seat.

    'Minority vote crucial'

    Commenting on Indian votes in the last election, Umcedel fellow and political scientist Balakrishnan Suppaiah said GE13 showed the minority vote becoming more crucial.

    Balakrishnan said statements of Indian support returning to BN was "debatable." His own surveys showed that more Indians - particularly young men - now backed the opposition.

    "Minority empowerment is getting better and better as the regime wants to keep Indians on the side of the establishment to serve the overall interest of the Malays," he said.

    Umcedel also presented a case study done in Temerloh, Pahang, where Saifuddin Abdullah, who is seen as a liberal young Umno leader, failed to defend his Temerloh parliamentary constituency against PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan, who is known for his hardline Islamic stance.

    Through a survey of 850 respondents made over three days recently, Umcedel concluded that the Chinese swing votes were the reason Saifuddin lost as Chinese families were pressured by their returning children to try and change the government.

    "They supported the opposition not because of the principle, not because of the struggle but because of the "Ubah" tune... a big number of them do not even know who the PAS candidate was," Umcedel's Redzuan said.

    "Many of the Chinese work and stay away from their parents but they came back for this particular election."

    Adding that the Chinese now realised they were duped, he jokingly predicted that if a re-election was held today, Saifuddin would win back his seat in Parliament.

    - Malaysiakini

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