BN aiming to catch Pakatan with its pants down in GE14

Last updated on 20/12/2013 - 08:00
Posted on 20/12/2013 - 08:00

Cindi Loo

PETALING JAYA: The 13th general election (GE13) was boldly dubbed the “Mother of all elections” before polling day on May 5 because many Malaysians held the impression that the mighty Barisan Nasional would be toppled by Pakatan Rakyat.

Despite losing the popular vote, BN is still sitting pretty in Putrajaya and there is nothing Pakatan or anyone can do about it.

As long as the political battle ground is uneven, with many crucial matters that give BN a head start in every general election, Pakatan cannot hope to unseat BN with the same campaign tactics used in GE12 and GE13.

There are signs that BN, Umno in particular, is making concerted efforts to “change” by consolidating its election machinery and propaganda network for GE14.

Pakatan cannot just continue to take the growing support of Malaysians for granted and wait for a miracle to happen in GE14 to claim the “throne”. It will not just happen that way.

For one, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has the prerogative to decide when to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for national polls.

Logically, Najib is expected to pick the most appropriate time deemed advantageous to the Umno-led BN. Obviously, the best time is when Pakatan is at its weakest i.e. when it is severely disunited.

So, Pakatan’s “Three Kings”, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had better get their act and house in order to enable them to get right down to work on the priorities that can give them victory – the support of the rural folk.

Anything less will mean the trio will be caught with their pants down in GE14.

The GE13 results proved to be divisive, and the impact is still being felt seven months after May 5, with Umno continuing to veer to right wing political warfare as it is a tried and tested strategy that has kept it in power since Merdeka in 1957.

This has prompted five academics to present their research papers, focusing on specific issues relating to GE13 in a special edition of “The Round Table: the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs”.

Guest editor and political analyst Professor James Chin, who also contributed a research article in the journal, told theantdaily it was clear in the past few months after the elections that Umno has moved to the far right.

“Ironically, PAS is now seen as a moderate party while Umno is seen as the extremist party. Umno, blaming the Chinese (for not supporting them in GE13) and going after Syiah followers will reinforce views that Umno is now the right wing party in Malaysia,” he said in an email interview.

Professor William Case from City University of Hong Kong had also stated in his research article that far from advancing democratic change, GE13 had served to roll democracy back, as Umno is convinced it will not retain power by reforming itself.

Instead, his research article argued that after their victory in GE13, top Umno politicians found that the polarisation they had instigated proved to be helpful in their attacks against DAP and the Chinese community, particularly over the alleged “Chinese tsunami”.

He also said in the launch of the journal in Singapore recently that he was not optimistic about any reforms happening in Umno, despite a few politicians calling for reconciliation.

Malaysian academic Dr Farish A Noor from Nanyang Technological University published a research article that looked specifically into Sabah, as it was one of the states deemed as BN’s “fixed deposits”.
However, he stated that local issues such as project IC, immigration played a much larger role rather than national issues during the campaign period, which is a reflection of Sabah’s retention of some local autonomy in a federation.

Choong Pui Yee from Nanyang Technological University studied the voter pattern in Kepong, a constituency known for its large population of urban Chinese voters and their continued support for DAP and Pakatan.

She argued that Kepong remained a DAP stronghold for some 30 years due to the Chinese voters’ resentment towards policies pushed by BN that were seen favouring certain ethnic groups, coupled with Pakatan’s rising popularity, even to the point that people believed it might have a chance at the federal administration.

Kai Ostwald from University of California had stated in his article that the BN win was attributed to the practise of malapportionment on multiple levels of various institutions, and found the distortions to be quite high.

This, he argued, has allowed BN to win with significantly fewer votes than what is required by the opposition to secure the seats.

Lastly, Chin presented a comparative view between the election strategies used by BN and Pakatan throughout the campaign period.

He wrote that BN, among other things, was focused on distribution of cash through handouts and using fear to keep the Malay voters by convincing them that their privileges will be taken away even as they tried to woo back the Chinese community, while Pakatan had used bad governance and corruption as issues they sought to eliminate if they were voted into power.
Chin concluded that although PR seemed to have a sound strategy, it could not get past structurally placed hurdles such as malapportionment and had mismanaged its campaign in Sabah and Sarawak as well as the rural areas.
Ultimately, the journal serves as a timely reminder that GE13 was an event full of possibilities, as both political coalitions were giving their all to woo voters, only to settle uneasily when the results did not improve for neither of the coalitions.