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GE13: Preliminary analysis based on Sungai Siput experience

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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 .

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sungai Siput
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, MP for Sungai Siput

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.

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malay voter support

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.

Indian voter support

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.chinese voter support

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.

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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”?

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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.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a long-time Aliran member and contributor, served as Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput from 2008 to 2018. A respiratory physician who was awarded a gold medal for community service, he is also a secretariat member of the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation and chairperson of the Socialist Party of Malaysia.
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Albert Choong
21 May 2013 1.29pm

Pakatan should have allowed Dr Michael Jayakumar to stand own their own and under your own symbol! Now you won and taking a swipe on Pakatan because your president, Dr Mohd Nasir Hashim under PKR lost because of a rogue PAS candidate joined in the contest? Your President and you should have decided to give way to PKR and DAP. in N24 Semenyih and in N31 Jelapang respectively under PSM symbol four months ago? They lost miserably and showed they were not winnable candidates from the very beginning? Please be reminded that GE 13 is about CHANGE and a contest between two mammoth coalitions? Looking into the political history (and PSM) relative to the cultures in Malaysia, your small localized party should have meshed with either PKR and DAP four years ago! One PSM supporter declared: “Time for pakatan die their own..like gagasan rakyat, barisan alternatif.. sleep toghether but dream not same!” PSM has a small following in Perak and Selangor, far from being a national party! Except for Dr Michael Jeyakumar who worked very hard to help the people with his medical skills, what can… Read more »

20 May 2013 6.15pm

Dear YB Dr. Kumar, I must first state that I am a supporter of PSM’s socialist principles and values. However, your analysis feeds fuel to BN’s racist arguments that their loss was due to a ‘Chinese Tsunami’. I think there are some discrepencies in your analysis that require clarification. How do you calculate a 17% Malay swing considering an average 20% increase in voter turnout in Malay polling centres. Couldn’t you also say that you retained the 17% that voted for you while the 6.6% drop came from additional voters such as postal or phantom voters attributed to irregularities in the electoral role. Do you have any information about this? Additionally, your figures from the Malay polling centres show a large increase in voters compared to the Indian and Chinese-majority polling centres. Have you investigated why this is so? Could this be attributed to phantom voters or transfered voters from other constituencies? This seems to be part of an overall dirty tactic (allegedly) employed by the UMNO-BN war room. Can you also provide figures about young first-time voters by checking saluran results? How did they vote… Read more »

HP Looi
HP Looi
18 May 2013 8.13pm

good analysis. reaching putrajaya even for ge14 will be difficult. the sabah-sarawak bn-fix-deposit will still be the mainstay against any opposition, as the incumbent state government has a strangle-hold on the electorate especially the small rural constituencies, as the incumbent controls all levers of power. this control is exclusively and allow easy manipulation of small rural constituencies (remember ballot box floating down the river and still no answer to-date?). same in peninsular; good example is pantai where grass root activism prevented a stolen election, but whither putrajaya or other small constituencies. for malaysia to change, we have to recognised that at least more than 60% of the malay community must subscribe to this (i.e. change). currently the malay community is split (almost 50% – citation required) and this is not sufficient. that is why umno current game plan is to corralled the malay vote-banks. do we have a counter to that?

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