Does the Pakatan have the long-term vision to be able to strike the correct balance? Can it control the politicians who “shoot from the hip”, wonders Jeyakumar Devaraj .
It was 8.00pm on 5 May 2013, polling day, and we were at the main counting centre. Our tally of the 100-odd Form 14s that our counting agents had brought back showed that we had won with a majority of about 2600 votes.
But there was none of the elation that accompanied our 2008 win over Samy Vellu. We were feeling down because the Form 14s were showing that Malay and Indian Malaysian support for us had declined when compared with the 2008 general election. It was the overwhelming swing of Chinese Malaysian voters towards Pakatan that had propelled us to the win.
A lot of questions came to mind – had we done enough in reaching out to the rural poor? Was this the impact of Hadi’s “communist” charge? What else could we have done given that we were denied funds and cooperation from government agencies?
I will return to some of these issues later, but first let me share why we came to the above conclusion. The majority of Sungai Siput voters cast their ballots in polling stations where there is a mixture of ethnic groups voting. But there are several seats which are virtually mono-ethnic, and these can be used to gauge the sentiment of that community. For example, more than 95 per cent of the voters in the polling stations in Table One are Malay.
A 6.6 per cent drop overall! This would mean about 17 per cent of the Malays who voted for me in 2008, have now switched to BN! Was this due to Hadi Awang’s diatribe on the day after nomination?
I strolled over to the screen where they were tabulating the results for Hj Mazlan, the Pas candidate for Lintang Dun, and I saw that his returns mirrored mine. The Pas candidate was also losing Malay support compared to 2008!
There are two polling stations in Sungai Siput constituency where a large majority of voters are Indian Malaysians – Elphil with 85 per cent Indian voters and Changkat Salak with about 70 per cent Indian voters. The majority of the remaining voters in these two station are Malays.
These figures seem to indicate that the Indian vote in the Changkat Salak polling station declined by an even bigger percentage than the Malay votes in Table One! Depressing! Our outreach was most thorough for the Indian Malaysian community as they were the ones who came most to our service centre. Yet we were losing their votes. Money politics? Or Hindraf’s disillusionment with Pakatan Rakyat?
But I did win with a larger majority! That was due to the overwhelming swing of Chinese Malaysian support for the Pakatan Rakyat, and the Chinese are the largest ethnic group in Sungai Siput at 39 per cent.
The Chinese vote has gone up significantly. Sungai Buloh was an anomaly – the base of YB Leong, the popular Jalong State Assembly woman for 2008–2013. Leong Mee Meng was dropped at the 11th hour from the candidate list.
The decrease in Malay vote is reflected in Pas’ and PKR’s performances in Perak and Kedah. My niece in Klang told me that there too they saw a drop in Malay support for the PR. This appears to be a widespread phenomenom and the opposition must give it serious analysis.
The Election Commission was far from neutral or professional. And reforming them should be one of the main items on the opposition agenda. But to attribute the PR’s electoral setback in 2013 wholly to SPR manipulation and cheating does disservice to our cause as, as I have shown above there was a shift in the Malay and Indian vote back to the BN. We have to understand this if we are serious of getting to Putrajaya in the next general election.
Is it because the rural Malays do not know of the corruption and abuse of power by Umno-BN? Or is it because they are afraid that a Pakatan government would be dominated by the DAP and would limit the various modalities of assistance that the Malay poor are receiving? It is important that we sort this out as the strategies for handling these two different possible causes of Malay voter reluctance are quite different.
My sense is that it is the latter reason – the DAP’s “exuberance” is undermining Malay support for Pas and PKR, very much like how Umno “arrogance” has undermined the MCA and Gerakan! Has the PR sufficient cohesion and maturity to handle this difficult issue?
And we musn’t forget that the non-Malay community can be spooked by “exuberance” on the part of PAS regarding the implementation of hudud. Again, has the Pas leadership the maturity to accept that hudud cannot be pushed at this point – that good governance and caring for the underpriviledged under the auspices of a welfare state are also “Islamic”?
The PR needs to come out and state categorically that the mandate received is only for the items contained in the joint manifesto. And this joint manifesto should state very clearly that all the modes of assistance that the poorer 75 per cent of the Malay population are receiving will be continued if not enhanced under PR rule, and that hudud will not be implemented for now.
Does the PR have the long-term vision to be able to strike the correct balance? Can it control the politicians who “shoot from the hip”? One wonders. Malaysia does need principled and mature political leaders.