ANALYSIS, May 8 ― The popular vote in Election 2013 tells the story of a “Bangsa Malaysia” generation voting for the first time and across racial lines, but for Barisan Nasional (BN), blaming Chinese voters is far more convenient to ensure unity and mask strategies that failed.
Some three million of the 13.3 million voters cast their ballots for the first time in last weekend’s polls and many likely did so for BN’s foes Pakatan Rakyat (PR), who vowed to end cronyism, excess expenditure and endemic corruption.
These first-time voters, mainly below 30, grew up in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s rule, where the country’s longest-serving prime minister launched his Vision 2020 in 1991 and spoke of a “Bangsa Malaysia” (Malaysian Race) who competed on meritocracy in a developed nation.
They left BN losing seven more federal seats than in Election 2008, for a total of 133 out of 222. The tale in the 12 state assemblies was even worse ― BN managed just 275 seats against PR’s 230 out of the 505 seats contested.He had blogged about the May 5 general election results, saying BN’s weaker showing pointed to a strong wave of rejection from all Malaysians and not just from the minority Chinese.
“They neglected ‘Bangsa Malaysia’. And now you see how the younger generation are voting,” veteran newsman and editor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin told The Malaysian Insider, referring to BN.
“Is it not possible that this is not a Chinese tsunami or racial chauvinism but a Malaysian tsunami that is centred on the aspiration and new reality, especially among young voters?” the man who had been group editor-in-chief of the public-listed News Straits Times Press during the Mahathir administration wrote in his blog.
Other pundits and politicians have also debunked the “Chinese tsunami” theory, saying the greater popular vote that went to PR was multi-racial in nature and due to a swing in the urban and middle-class electorate that saw Malaysia’s urban-rural rift widen.
They also said BN and Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia’s banner headline “What else do the Chinese want?” yesterday was a clear sign of finding an external bogeyman to deflect attention from party leaders and strategies that failed in Election 2013.
BN chairman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak suggested the “Chinese tsunami” for the coalition’s defeat early Monday morning, which MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek took up and later reinforced by MIC leader Datuk M. Saravanan yesterday. Dr Mahathir also blamed the loss on “ungrateful Chinese” and “greedy Malays”, apart from questioning BN strategists whose ideas failed.
But critics point out that Dr Mahathir actively campaigned for BN, especially the two Malay rights group Perkasa candidates ― Datuk Ibrahim Ali in Pasir Mas and Datuk Zulkifli Noordin in Shah Alam, who have riled up non-Malays for racist remarks over the years.
Both contested in Malay-majority federal seats but lost, further evidence that BN was wrong about the Chinese being the main cause of their electoral losses.
Dr Mahathir, however, was right about the BN strategists, some of whom pitched for personal attacks against opposition leaders, fear mongering and running down PR’s manifesto through various media channels and dominating advertising space.
“Blaming the DAP for confusing voters into believing that they can change the government just shows how brilliant DAP strategists are compared with BN’s,” said a public relations expert, who declined to be named.
“These BN strategists just want to hide the fact that they misread the ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ youths, so just pin the blame on the Chinese whose vote was discounted in the first place,” he added.
A BN war room source also pointed out the coalition’s internal surveys had shown it would perform worse than in Election 2008, when they won 140 seats. “We were always going to get below 140, so 133 is no surprise,” he said.
“It is easier to blame voters and other parties for the losses but the fact is our election machinery failed us in some places while PR’s was better,” he added.
“PR’s machinery was impressive and they talked about issues and race relations. That helped them a lot,” the BN war room official said.
But for now, he said it was easier for a bitter BN to blame DAP and the Chinese, whose strong support in the 1999 elections shored up Dr Mahathir’s position after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sacked for sodomy and corruption charges that sparked months-long protests.
The Chinese form 28 per cent of Malaysia’s 29 million population of which less than half have registered to vote. Despite the low number of voters, the Election Commission (EC) said voter turnout on Sunday was a record 84.84 per cent.
Of that number, BN polled 5,237,699 votes for the 222 federal seats to Pakatan Rakyat parties’ combined 5,623,984 ballots.
The three-party pact of PKR, PAS and the DAP also surpassed BN in the state seats, pulling in 4,879,699 votes to the 13-member coalition’s 4,513,997 ballots.
~ The Malaysian Insider