Tuesday, April 23, 2013

BN’s costly early errors


April 23, 2013
This article takes a look at the major events that have arisen since the dissolution of Parliament.
Galvin Wong
After the dissolution of Parliament, Malaysian politics characteristically burst into life with a flurry of activities last week.
The release of a sex video, the launching of manifestos and announcement of candidates from both sides of the political divide as well as a last-minute controversial announcement from the Registrar of Societies (ROS) concerning DAP’s leadership election culminated in a nomination day that saw scores of Independents putting themselves forward as candidates.
The recent frenzied state of activity is the result of an increase in politicisation of an already highly politicised environment.
This being the last stage of the fight, political parties are battling to highlight weaknesses of their opponents in order to gain crucial momentum that will build towards increasing their support among the public.
This article takes a look at the major events that have arisen since the dissolution of Parliament. It highlights the issues that surround these events and analyses its political impact on the electorate.
There are four main issues in the political campaign: Barisan Nasional’s dirty tactics, clean governance, Pakatan Rakyat’s unity, and Pakatan’s readiness to govern.
These four issues have been the focus of events that have happened recently. However, unlike previous engagements where BN and Pakatan have both come out winners, the outcome of these recent events have clearly benefited Pakatan. We shall analyse each issue accordingly.
Dirty, underhand tactics
Political scientist Bridget Welsh, in her recent article, has extensively covered the issue of BN’s dirty tactics. She cited the sex video of Mustafa Ali, the fielding of Zulkifli Noordin and the Registrar of Societies’ (ROS) underhanded tactics that have clearly backfired on BN.
Malaysia’s electorate has matured extremely quickly in the past five years. Empirical evidence in the form of a Merdeka Centre survey in 2011 has shown that a majority of voters did not believe the sex video involving Anwar Ibrahim was real.
The belief in the authenticity of the sex videos and their negative impact on voters would have only decreased in the past year given Anwar’s subsequent acquittal in his second sodomy trial.
In fact, the use of sex videos would have an adverse impact on BN given recent events that have shown just how strongly Malaysians now reject dirty, underhand tactics.
The increasing number of protesters in Bersih 2.0 and 3.0 rallies are examples that prove this.
Malaysians have not only demanded clean elections, but have also rejected racial politics. The nominations of racists such as Zulkifli will only prove to be a liability to BN.
However, instead of learning from mistakes, the BN candidate for the parliamentary seat of Pasir Mas pulled out on Saturday allowing another well-known racist, Ibrahim Ali, to contest in a one-on- one fight with an opposition candidate.
Despite BN Kelantan chief protesting his innocence of this development, his protest is unlikely to convince anyone given that Dr Mahathir Mohamad personally endorsed Ibrahim. Moreover, this will be interpreted as BN chief Najib Tun Razak giving in to Mahathir’s wishes.
The second issue is one of clean governance. The opposition has made corruption the main thrust of its attacks against BN. Numerous scandals such as the National Feedlot Corporation “cowgate” have been making the headlines since 2008.
Effective strategy
The opposition’s strategy has been so effective that most Malaysians consider corruption as the most important problem BN faces in a survey by Merdeka Centre. BN was accused of having lack integrity during its announcement of its candidates.
The announcement was an excellent opportunity for Najib to further prove his transformation credentials. He and other BN component party leaders tried to do this by highlighting the number of new as well as young candidates they had fielded for this election.
Najib himself acknowledged this opportunity when he declared his list of BN candidates a “Team of Transformation”.
However, almost a day after the announcement, DAP’s Ong Kian Ming came out with allegations on the “bogus degrees” of a few BN candidates.
A few days later, PKR’s Rafizi Ramli released documents concerning allegations of fraud against his opponent Gary Lim from MCA. This accusation arose soon after BN dropped Ong Tee Keat in favour of Lim for the Pandan parliamentary constituency.
These revelations have re-focused the public’s attention on BN’s poor integrity, allowing Pakatan to drive home its point about corruption in BN.
In the past, Pakatan has been repeatedly attacked by BN for being unfit to govern the country because the coalition is not united.
The inability of Pakatan to jointly endorse a prime minister-in-waiting has been greatly played up by the ruling coalition. PKR’s disagreement with PSM (Parti Sosialis Malaysia), a party that has Pakatan-friendly candidates, was widely reported.
However, this disagreement will not have any adverse impact as PSM is a relatively smaller party, with a small support base and little national following. The crucial issue involving Pakatan unity is the possible three-cornered fights in seats such as Sungai Acheh and a few more in East Malaysia.
Numerous mistakes
It is the ROS “affair” that showed up BN’s miscalculation and provided the perfect opportunity for Pakatan to unite. Pakatan snapped up this opportunity, with DAP announcing it will contest under PAS and PKR banners respectively.
PAS and PKR responded favourably, signalling their willingness to cooperate. Nevertheless, the inability to solve the three-cornered fights – despite the end of nomination day – might allow BN a chance to attack the opposition.
Another issue that BN has been harping on is Pakatan’s readiness to govern. BN has pointed to Pakatan’s inexperience in formulating policies.
Pakatan has attempted to disprove this by crafting policies such as reforming the National Automotive Policy (NAP) to reduce the prices of cars, among others.
The timing of the unveiling of the Pakistan manifestos proved crucial this time around. Its early release turned out to be a strategic advantage. When BN announced its manifesto, it was found that many of its proposals were similar to Pakatan’s.
The BN manifesto came under heavy fire for being a copycat manifesto.
Pakatan was able to prove that it has the credentials needed to govern the country, neutralising BN’s claim that the fomer is unprepared to govern. The opposition pact has also turned the tables on BN, pointing out that BN has run out of ideas on governance.
BN’s numerous missteps have played right into Pakatan’s hands. Pakatan has seized the high ground and has managed to re-focus public attention on the core issues: BN’s dirty tactics and lack of clean governance.
The opposition coalition has also managed to convince the public that it is a united force and has the credentials to administer the country.
Galvin Wong is a political analyst.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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