BN or PR for GE13?
Writer: Lee Choon Fai
Published: Fri, 05 Apr 2013
AFTER months of speculation, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the dissolution of the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday in a live telecast, paving the way for Malaysia’s 13th General Election.
Widely expected to be Malaysia’s closest election since independence, GE13 could very well contain even more surprises than GE12.
Perhaps the biggest upset of GE12 was ruling coalition Barisan Nasional’s (BN) loss of the most developed state Selangor to the opposition pact, Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
Selangor, the country’s richest state, was widely expected to remain in BN’s fold but was swept away by PR which took 36 out of the 56 state seats, allowing them to form the state government of the day.
At the parliamentary level, BN did not fare any better as they only managed to hold on to five of 22 seats in Selangor.
While Umno managed to secure four out of 10 contested seats, MCA only managed to win one out of seven seats while MIC (4) and Gerakan (1) lost all the seats they contested in.
MIC, however, managed to wrest back the Hulu Selangor seat from PKR during the 2010 by-election, improving BN’s tally in the state to six parliamentary seats.
Meanwhile, PKR won nine seats out of the 11 contested, followed by DAP with four out of four, and PAS with four out of seven.
Upsets and Close Shaves
The results in 2008 were a stark contrast to GE11 in 2004, where BN won all 22 parliamentary seats while taking all but two of the 56 state seats.
This led to former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s 2008 target of having “zero” opposition in Selangor.
Among the biggest upsets were DAP’s Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, who unseated the two-term incumbent from MCA, Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, with a majority of 19,972 votes.
Then there was PAS’ Siti Mariah Mahmud who defeated MIC’s incumbent S A Vigneswaran with a 20,751 majority despite contesting in a seat with a sizeable Indian composition and registered the highest majority of any PAS candidate in history.
Several PR candidates scraped through with small majorities such as PAS’ Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad who bagged the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat with an 860 majority and PKR’s Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, who won the Kuala Langat parliamentary seat with a majority of 989.
It should also be noted that the Hulu Selangor seat was won by PKR’s Zainal Abidin Ahmad by an extremely narrow margin of 198 votes and unseated incumbent current MIC president Datuk Seri G Palanivel before the 2010 by-election.
The above seats could swing either way in GE13 and could very well be the deciding factor of who will emerge the winner.
It is also interesting to note that MCA’s infighting is putting five-term incumbent Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s Pandan seat at risk, with the party leadership overriding the local division’s authority and fielding a new candidate to replace the former.
Loss of non-Malay votes
One of the major factors contributing to BN’s setback in 2008, securing only 51% of popular votes, was due to a huge swing by voters.
Traditional BN supporters from the Chinese and Indian communities expressed no-confidence for the MCA and MIC across the board and forsook them at the polls.
This trend was reflected in more than half of the 16 by-elections held after 2008.
Between 2008 and 2011 there were six by-elections for Dewan Rakyat and 10 by-elections for the various state assemblies.
The results were evenly split as PR candidates won four out of the six parliamentary by-elections while BN took six out of the 10 state by-elections.
The phenomenon of widespread rejection of the ruling coalition was especially evident in urban areas and to a lesser degree in sub-urban areas due to better access to information through the internet and social media.
What shook public opinion the most was the two major public protests held in the same month in 2007, something that has not been seen in years since the ‘Reformasi’ movement.
First was the original Bersih rally calling for free and fair elections on Nov 10, 2007, which saw about 30,000 to 40,000 protesters storming the streets of Kuala Lumpur and was met with riot police who fired tear gas and chemical-laced water cannons.
Two weeks later on Nov 25, 2007, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) took to the streets to express their dismay over a string of incidences where local council authorities demolished several Hindu temples, some of them historical, to make way for development.
The Hindraf rally was similarly met with tear gas canisters and chemical-laced water, fuelling public discontent against the ruling coalition due to their poor handling of the two rallies.
Among the issues voters will consider before casting their ballot is the fight against corruption.
On the BN side, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) was revamped into the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in an effort to reinvent the inefficient graft watchdog.
Najib had also introduced the Key Performance Index (KPI) to rate performances including corruption by governmental bodies including the police force.
However, the policies and initiatives introduced by BN are mildly effective at best as the MACC is constantly being criticised for going after “small fries” while the “big fish” roam free.
In late 2011, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal made the headlines when the federal opposition revealed that RM250 million in soft loans were allegedly misused by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s family.
Following that, Shahrizat resigned her cabinet position as Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development, after her Dewan Negara senatorship was not extended last year.
NFC executive chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail (pic) has claimed trial to two criminal breach of trust charges.
According to The Star report dated Feb 9, the case was fixed for March 11 in the Sessions Court.
Last month, UK-based NGO Global Witness released a 16-minute video implicating Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s relatives and close business associates with circumventing local laws for tax evasion and the abuse of logging licences.
Additionally, the MACC also had two deaths in custody; the first being the infamous “suicide” of Teoh Beng Hock and the second being the death of Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed, a Customs officer under investigation for corruption.
On the other hand, PR stated in their recently launched election manifesto that their government will have a zero tolerance policy on corruption.
A corruption eradication policy named “Debaran” was in the manifesto and includes a total shake-up of the police, judiciary and the MACC from head to toe.
While PR may not be the government of the day, the state governments of Penang and Selangor have been managed relatively free from corruption.
Another factor which will figure on voters’ minds is the rise in crime or the perception of crime in the country.
While the authorities have cited drops in the crime index, a newly set-up NGO, MyWatch, has disputed this.
MyWatch is led by former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan.
According letters provided by MyWatch, the authorities had announced fewer cases of snatch thefts, burglary and house break-ins compared to an internal letter.
The NGO also alleged that the police had incorrectly calculated the case-solving rate for 2011 and 2012.
Despite a string of widely publicised street and mall crimes in the Klang Valley, the government put this to a perception issue rather than serious threat.
To assure that our streets are safe, the government had increased police patrols in areas with high crime and also allocated more money or procured more equipment for the police.
Meanwhile, PR suggested in their manifesto that repurposing some desk-bound police officers to help with crime could increase the number of police officers patrolling the streets without reducing manpower.
They also suggested that the Special Branch be abolished so that the personnel could be deployed for better use.
However, the recent Lahad Datu intrusion has shocked the nation on how porous Sabah’s borders are.
In early February, between 200 to 300 armed Filipinos from the Sulu Sultanate invaded the east coast of Sabah, to stake a claim to the land.
The Federal government attempted to negotiate with the intruders for more than three weeks before a fire-fight broke out between security forces and the intruders.
Negotiations broke down immediately and multiple confrontations followed; eight policemen and an army private lost their lives while as many as 64 gunmen were killed.
Questions are now being raised over the government’s initial soft stance when dealing with the gunmen, the security of Sabah’s borders, and the information blackout from the region.
While GE12 came as a surprise even to PR leaders, will voters continue to back the new coalition or will BN regain their traditional two thirds-majority?
After a long wait, Malaysians will decide who the next government is within the next two months.