By Kenny Gan | Malaysia Chronicle
Despite the popularity of Pakatan Rakyat the 13th general election is still a David vs. Goliah contest on an unlevel playing field where the incumbent has colossal advantages in media, money and machinery. BN controls all the levers of power including the most crucial one, the Election Commission and is not ashamed to use whatever means - fair or foul - to beat off the PR challenge, mostly foul.
Given the unevenness of the contest I venture to say that the 13th G.E. will be more of a contest on whether BN can regain its two-thirds majority rather than a frenzied fight for Putrajaya. The two most crucial states to the campaign, namely Sarawak and Sabah which together contribute 25% of the parliamentary seats still remain BN’s fixed deposit to a large degree. In Sabah the illegal immigrants absorbed into the electoral rolls have undermined the right to self-determination of native Sabahans.
However all is not doom and gloom and there still remains a thin wedge of chance that PR can overcome the odds to unseat the juggernaut BN. It all hinges on that ever recurring political event in Umno – a power struggle – coupled with a serious underestimation of civil society by the corridors of power.
Pakatan’s Last Stand
But first of all, let us consider what happens if PR fails to unseat BN from Federal power. The signs are already clear that BN will take certain steps to ensure it will never have to face the threat of losing power again. This will be achieved not by increasing BN’s popularity but by underhanded methods to compromise the electoral process so that BN can rule without fear of losing power, short of a street revolution.
Already the Election Commission is in collusion with an enthusiastic BN to implement an opaque biometric verification system which will allow BN greater scope to cheat using phantom voters and illegal immigrants issued with MyKads. Co-incidentally or maybe not, the biometric data of 2 million foreign workers are being collected. This expensive system which is largely useless for preventing multiple voting is favoured instead of the much cheaper and simpler indelible ink which would put the brakes on phantom voters.
Even more ominous, the government is establishing Territorial Army companies in all 222 parliamentary constituencies and there are rumblings that they will eventually be given postal votes. When army companies are established by parliamentary constituencies instead of more appropriate criteria one can infer that their main purpose is not the defence of the country.
Both the biometric system and the Territorial army companies are not expected to be implemented in time for the 13th G.E. but will be firmly in place for the 14th G.E. We should also not forget that gerrymandering will be another BN weapon in the 14th G.E. as the present delineation of electoral boundaries is not expected to be completed in time for the 13th G.E.
What this means is that the 13th G.E. may well be the last window of opportunity left for the people to choose their government before the regime entrench itself through a severely compromised electoral system. The 13th G.E. will be Pakatan's last stand before Malaysia becomes a full-fledged dictatorship with false trappings of democracy.
Najib’s Last Stand
But if the 13th GE is Pakatan’s last stand it is also Najib’s last stand. The writing on the wall is clear. Get back BN’s two-third majority or be pulled down.
Throughout most of Najib’s troubled premiership he has been dogged with odd acts of sabotage by his subordinates especially with regards to his 1Malaysia concept. Things have come to a head now and it is no longer possible to ignore the rumblings of a power struggle in Umno.
Recent events point to this tumult in the corridors of power. The police’s heavy oppression of the Bersih rally bordering on the ludicrous as if to enrage civil society, the flip-flop by Najib on the stadium offer to Bersih (probably forced by hardliners), the leakage to the media of Rosmah’s RM24 million diamond ring, the formation of Amanah and Najib’s cutting short his family holiday to rush back to Malaysia are symptoms of this struggle.
The unjust and illogical detention of the PSM-6 for frivolous reasons can only be intended to weaken Najib politically. Although they have released the damage has already been done. When a deputy Minister starts criticizing the handling of the Bersih rally the fight has shifted to the public arena.
The anti-Najib faction cannot allow him to win two-thirds majority in the next general election or his job will be safe. The conspirators have to weaken him politically and limit the extent of cheating in the polls to give PR a chance.
But they walk a fine line as there is a danger of overdoing things. The 13th G.E. is a David vs. Goliath battle but when two giants battle David may sneak in and run away with the crown.
Civil Society Strikes Back
On his first day as Prime Minister, Najib Razak said:
“Economic progress and better education have directly resulted in the birth of a class of voters who are better informed, very demanding and highly critical. If we do not heed this message, their seething anger will become hatred and in the end this may cause them to abandon us altogether.”
Unfortunately Najib did not follow his own advice nor did he impose this on his subordinates or the instruments of government. The intelligence of Malaysians are being insulted on an almost daily basis as if our society exists in the time warp of the 1970s when access to information was limited and the word of the government was trusted. Whether it is the imaginative reasons manufactured to demonize the Bersih rally, Anwar’s shaky sodomy trial held together by a compliant judge or the speculative suicide verdict of the Teoh RCI, Malaysians are being treated as gullible simpletons.
Civil society is frustrated and infuriated at the government’s lack of respect for them. The government is behaving like a dictatorship and not a democracy. They have taken their frustration to cyberspace and the social media and will find an outlet in the next general election. BN has completely lost the urban middle class. They have also lost the Chinese, the Indians, Christian, the fence sitters and the young voters.
But the people who talk down to others are themselves not smart enough to realize the effect they are causing. There is a sharp disconnect between state and society fostered no doubt by a sycophantic press which deprives the government of valuable feedback. The stage is set for a swing of anti-BN votes to PR by those who want an alternative to an abusive and corrupt government, any alternative as long as it is not BN.
However PR should not celebrate yet because it takes a lot to displace BN. It is not enough to be a little more popular than BN, it takes overwhelming support to overwhelm BN’s cheating.
To level the playing field a little PR should push for implementation of at least three essential election reforms, namely proper conduct of postal votes, use of indelible ink and allowing all overseas Malaysians to vote.
There should not be any more public dissent within the group. PR must present a united front and a cohesive group. All arguments should be behind closed doors and no party or individual should go to the press to settle any argument.
For the first time ever the opposition front can claim to be able to displace BN with a high degree of credibility. This changes the dynamics completely from merely trying to be a strong opposition to being a government in waiting. PR is now able to make wide sweeping promises of what it intends to do it if it wins the election.
Promises such as reducing the price of oil and electricity to relieve the burden of the people can be made with good effect. Even BN traditional strongholds like Felda can be breached by promising a better deal for them. However populist measures such as distributing cash should not be made. The intelligence of Malaysians should be respected and the public knows what is sustainable and what is not.
The later the election is held the more favourable for PR with more young voters joining the rolls, more BN scandals emerging and the economy biting deeper. If it is to be held this year it will probably be November and we should know by October when Najib presents the budget. If an election budget is presented and should the Election Commission be as stubborn as it is now, Bersih 3.0 should be called and this time it should be held in every major town. The EC may still not act but it will deal BN a few body blows or even buy more time for PR if the election is postponed to next year.
The People’s Last Stand
The 13th G.E. may be the one and only time that Malaysians have any chance of replacing BN with another government. Such a chance may never come again as the goalposts will be moved after the 13th G.E. It should be noted that the present level of cheating will not work if Malaysians come out in large numbers and vote against BN.
We should not waste any votes on so-called third force parties like MCLM, HRM and KITA. Such split voting will only help to BN retain its power. There is no such thing as a third force unless there is a two party system in place. Although the level of support for PR is high enough to be considered a two party system in theory this is only true if both parties respect the rules of democracy. If the ruling party continues to oppress the opposition, abuse its power and corrupts all the institutions of democracy to perpetuate its rule while depending on a compromised election system to win, it is still a one party totalitarian rule in practice. A two party a system will only be in place if BN loses power at least once.
There are some who do not like BN but think that PR is not good enough to get their votes. They are missing the point because it is not about voting angels to parliament but creating a two party system. What can angels do in Parliament if BN is still the Federal power? MCLM which prides itself on selecting sterling candidates should answer this question. If PR does not perform we can easily vote them out but the same cannot be said of BN.
Another type of voters fear change and prefer to maintain the status quo. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” is their adage. But they fail to understand that the status quo cannot be maintained if BN continues to rule. There is only so much economic plunder and uncompetitive racial policies that one country can take. Economic decline has a way of accelerating exponentially. When we become a maid exporting country everybody will suffer except the Umnoputras.
The 13th general election represents a nexus of conducive factors which may just work together to push out BN. A united opposition, a power struggle in Umno, an alienated civil society and most important of all, an election system which isn’t totally corrupted yet. This is not only Pakatan’s last stand but also the People’s last stand against tyranny and economic mismanagement. The chance may never come again.