“I’ve flipped, you should too,” declared a friend, with pride. She was refering to the fact she had recently switched camp from being a hard core BN-supporter to an opposition-supporter.
Are the rest of the Malaysians really ready for change? Am I ready for change?
And to put it bluntly, are the Malays ready for change? The Malays, after all, form the bulk of Malaysia’s 28 million population. A slight swing in Malay votes could result in a major swing in political stewardship.
Back in 2008, Barisan Nasional (BN) election strategists anticipated that the opposition could only garner a maximum of 50 parliamentary seats. That prediction was made based upon the fact that at the time, 65-70% of the Chinese and Indian voters had swayed towards opposition, whereas the Malays remained evenly divided.
What they didnt expect was an unprecedented urban Malays’ swing towards the opposition, which resulted in BN garnering only 49% of popular votes, while the opposition, 51%. What they failed to anticipate was the internal sabotage by UMNO committee members whose candidacies were dropped, by the party’s top enchelon. What they failed to envisage was that the process of urbanization and aging had actually reduced the number of BN’s hard core voters.
In 2008, BN lost six states (including Federal Territory), the worst ever result in its history. Even though, it managed to secure a simple majority to form a ruling government, their survival was heavily dependent upon East Malaysians’ votes. Out of the 140 parliament seats won by BN, 54 actually came from Sabah and Sarawak. Without Eastern Malaysian votes, Barisan Nasional would be as good as gone.
At that time, the prevailing hot campaign issues were simply:
1. The ever escalating high cost of living. 2. The increase in gas (petrol) price.
3. Public insecurity with rampant crime, robbery and snatch thieves.
4. The sheer intolerence and unnecessary brutality executed by the police during BERSIH and Hindraf public demonstrations.
Nonetheless, the Carrots and Stick election strategy which had miraculously worked in the last eleven elections, failed to materialize in 2008. In light to the above major issues, dangling the promise of development and infusing fear within the voters’ mind no longer worked. At least not for non-Malays. At least not for those who have access to international news/media and the internet.
But to the Malays—especially those whose source of information very much depend on local government-owned newspapers, radio and attended propaganda-laden goody handouts government-sponsored gatherings—seem to be taken in to BN’s fear strategy. For years BN propaganda strategists have been implanting in the Malay minds that:
1. Only UMNO is the only and true guardian of the Malay rights.
2. If ever the country’s political power falls in the hands of the opposition, the very first thing they would do is to do away with Bumiputra special rights, even when these rights have already been enshrigned in Malaysia’s Federal Constitution.
3. A Chinese would become Malaysia’s Prime Minister, or worst still, there would be two or three deputy Prime Ministers to accomodate the three major races in Malaysia.
4. That DAP is a sister party to PAP, the mind-control racist political party of Singapore which had practically and successfully reduced Singapore’s original Malay majority population into a tiny, little insignificant minority group.
These very fears were what had successfully halted most Malays from ‘flipping’ in favor of the opposition. These are also the very fears which the opposition failed to recognize, let alone address.
It is thus came not as a surprise when a recent random interview with regular Malays on the street, resulted in eight out of ten Malays indicated that they have no intention to flip, citing the the infamous line: “We (the Malays) would be doomed should the opposition grab hold of power.”
It didn’t help when Penang’s public civil servants shared their experience being under DAP administration with fellow civil servants in other states. Many ‘gory’ stories spread like wildfire. “Penang Chief Minister (Lim Guan Eng) do not trust us (Malay civil servants). Every letter signed and noted for action by him, had to be shown back to him to ensure that all his instructions have been followed, to the letter.”
Stories that many bumiputera contractors are often sidelined in Penang since they still aren’t able to compete with the Chinese on equal ground. That the Chinese simply have longer experience, better international contacts and bigger capital than the Malays, ever would.
In the mean time, It became ever more obvious that Barisan Nasional desperately need to implement an additional strategy to remain in power. Knowing full well that BN’s core supporters came from the kampungs and the poor who depend on BN for continued financial assistance, the Najib administration introduced a variety of CASH HANDOUTs. These varies from RM500 BR1M, RM200 special unmarried singles, RM250 book vouchers, RM100 special education assistance, RM200 Kar1sma and many others.
Urban Malays apparently are a lost cause, just as the Chinese and possibly the more-educated Indians. In another word, Barisan Nasional has lost the faith, trust and support from intellectuals and better-educated Malaysians of Malay, Chinese and Indian origins.
On the other hand, the rural Malays are very much indebted to UMNO. To Barisan Nasional. So are the 350,000-strong army, navy, police, RELA, JPA and all other Malaysian security forces. So too the 800,000 (now nearing 1.2 million)-strong public civil service employees.
Historically, these groups are BN’s hard core voters. In each election, BN’s traditional core voters ranged from 3.5-4.5 million (from civil service,mrural folks and its own party members) out of the eligible estimated 10 million voters. In order to win, BN only has to attract at least 1-2 million fence sitters and non-party members. In the past (prior to 2008), BN could always depend upon the Chinese and Indian voters, by throwing one-off financial aids to race-based schools and NGOs.
And that is the main reason why most BN politicians—UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, MIC and other BN component parties—go out (even fight) their way to secure constituencies in safer rural, army-camps and adminstrative cities, leaving urban areas to newer, fresher and ignorant candidates who are ever willing to lose in the name of the party.
BN had not made much attempt to swing Malay votes, since the Malays are evenly divided and head-strong about their conviction.
Nonetheless, 2013 is a new game altogether. This time around, 85-90% of the Chinese population are committed to support the opposition, and they can’t be swayed. This time around, BN would have to danggle the carrots to the Indians and the Malays. But the Indian voters aren’t that numerous in number. Too few to be of any significance.
This time around, the issues are more than just four. Apart from the unresolved above four problems, BN is also burdened with Prime Minister’s Najib own personal problems. Problems from an over-domineering and shopholic wife. Problems from an unresolved Altantuya murder. Problems associated with Scorpene, the French used unsinkable submarine bribery case.
Accompanied with mega huge problems from corrupt Chief Ministers of Sarawak AND Sabah.
Also problems inherited during Tun Mahathir’s era pertaining to overzealous and illegal issuance of Malaysian citizenships to bribable poor Fillipinos, in return for votes.
And problems related to BN’s list of entrepolitician members who join the party not to serve the public, instead for the sole purpose to enrich themselves and their family members.
Thus, 2013 election would have to depend on Malay voters. Are the Malays ready to change? To give Anwar, Hadi and the Lims a chance?
The real answer actually lies on Anwar and the gang.
Could Anwar promise to uphold Malay rights and privileges, in accordance to the constitution? Could Anwar promise to change NEP with an equivalent or better affirmative action policy, without minimizing the Malays’ rights? Could Anwar promise that the premiership and deputy primership will always remain as status quo, i.e., with the Malays?
Could Hadi promise to implement Islamic administration slowly and on stages? Giving preference to those easily agreeable to the public first, whereas the more controversial ones, at a later stage?
Could the Lims agree to share the nation’s wealth and not to grab as much as possible for their own race? Could the Lims agree to cede all Malay-majority parliament and state seats to Muslim leaders, and this, allow Malaysian Muslims be ruled by their own Muslim brothers? Could the Lims agree to set up Malay Towns in Malaysia’s main cities, to provide opportunities for the Malays to play a role in retail businesses? Could the Lims agree to uphold that being an official language, Bahasa Melayu should be used widely in education and daily communication within the country?
And most important of all, could the Lims agree to unite Malaysians of all races, in a singular school system, under the same roof, the same syllabus and the same teachers? Whereas, the study of a variety of languages would be offered as electives in these truly-national school system.
If and when the opposition leaders are receptively ready to such ‘revolutionary’ changes, then perhaps the Malays would be more than ever ready to change. Otherwise, the opposition would find that most Malays would be adamant to remain in their current comfort zones.
As the friend said, “I decided to flip not because of Anwar or his promise to get rid of DEB/NEP (affirmative action) policies. In fact I still believe it should be maintained. After all the non-Malays enjoyed a 300-year long ‘special treatment’ from foreign colonists, what can the Malays accomplish with a mere 50-yr program?”
“I choose to flip,” she continued, “because UMNO/BN are just too corrupt. They are too powerful that they think they can get away with anything, do whatever they please and grab everything. A vote to UMNO or BN would mean handing them total ownership of the country. That I cannot accept.”
Perhaps, neither could I.