Malaysians have decided as to who should rule for the next five years this country full of natural wealth, colourful mixture of diverse races, of religions, of cultures, of languages, of political leanings and manifold ambitions. The anticipation of the political parties in the 13th General Elections was apparent; the BN was confident that it would, and could muster two-third majority in the next parliament. Aside from that, it also believed that it could re-capture Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Selangor. On the other hand Pakatan Rakyat (PKR) was oozing with confidence that it will capture Putrajaya and add few more states to its existing numbers.
The popular belief is that the election results of 5th May show the electorate’s mind to be different reflecting maturity. Although BN’s lease for power for the next five years has been renewed; but it was denied two-third majority it eagerly hoped for. In the state elections BN re-captured Kedah but not Penang, Kelantan and Selangor. PKR which retained these three states has in fact improved its strength there. Besides these states, PKR has also made remarkable progress in Perak, Negri Sembilan, and Johore: and these are states considered to be BN’s traditional strongholds. In Perak the BN has retained its hold and PKR has not lost its influence.
The slim majority of BN in Parliament and its inability to recapture Penang, Kelantan and Selangor and PKR’s failed attempt to unseat BN from Putra Jaya are results which can happen in any democracy. Whether the contestants were ready to accept the people’s verdict is the disturbing question.
When all the results were in and it was apparent that BN had won the right to form the next central government albeit with a slim majority, Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak’s cautious acceptance was understandable. Following that, his call, obviously a sort of plea towards reconciliation was also politically correct. However, the subsequent launching of a frontal attack that the Chinese electorate had rejected BN and labeling it with “Chinese Tsunami” was the most inappropriate course. Having wisely said that he would work towards reconciliation, the attack on Chinese voters seems to be an obvious contradiction. It can also be described as aberration in the face of defeat. Many have taken this “Chinese Tsunami” as a war-cry castigating the Chinese Community for not supporting MCA and through it BN which act is unfair and totally unacceptable.
If a section or a large number of Chinese voters had voted in favour of PKR it is a normal trend in a democracy. However, it is totally unacceptable to say or condemn the Chinese for not supporting the BN. It is now claimed that PKR and more particularly DAP played upon racial sentiments. It is doubtful if DAP or PKR was the main cause; but it is clear that BN too had a lion share for the election campaign to course through racial lines.
Nobody with rational mind wanted disturbing racial issues raised during the election campaign, however, it became starkly clear it was one of the trump cards BN seemed inclined to use; or use it in a way the ghost of May 13th would return to haunt the voters.
The false move by BN was apparent when it chose to pit Dato Abdul Ghani, the then Menteri Besar of Johore against Lim Kit Siang whose candidacy for Gelang Patah was announced long before the nomination day. It was a notorious fact that Gelang Patah was MCA’s stronghold yet BN took a gamble in naming Ghani, an UMNO heavyweight as its candidate. This was the most ill conceived move and a disaster as no prudent politician would venture into such a political suicide.
It was widely rumoured long before the announcement of the General Elections that Ghani would not be a candidate or would not offer himself as a candidate. Hence, what prompted him to accede to a request fraught with the prospects of defeat? Besides, what was the motive of BN, or was it MCA’s idea to field Ghani against Lim Kit Siang, who had been portrayed by BN as a racist and DAP as a Chinese based party? The move was flawed, for Gelang Patah was used as a testing ground as to whom the Chinese voters would support-Ghani backed by MCA or Kit Siang? It was definitely a bad plan and the leaders should not have embarked on this acid test.
Having named Ghani as a BN candidate the next thing was to level charges against Lim Kit Siang as a racialist and DAP as a racist party: thus racial politics became a life issue and featured prominently in the campaign. It did not stop in Gelang Patah as it spread like a forest fire throughout Peninsula Malaysia. BN did not hesitate to bring in the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to campaign for BN’s Ghani. This was also a poor move because Mahathir used racism, a pet subject of his in his campaign supporting Ghani, and he turned out to be a liability for BN. To put it primly BN scored its own goal.
Further, what explanation does BN or UMNO has for the losses suffered in Penang, Kelantan and Selangor? Would it not be correct to say that Malays themselves have drifted away from UMNO?
BN leaders have been very critical of the Chinese voters as if they alone were responsible for BN’s losses. In Peninsula Malaysia the combined non-Malay votes do not exceed the total number of Malay votes. Simple arithmetic will show that even in constituencies where the majority are Malays, BN or UMNO to be precise, had not been able to win all the Malays. In areas where the Chinese were in the majority the number of votes cast shows the Malay swing to the opposition. Therefore, it is very wrong to criticize the Chinese community entirely.
Another thing BN has to bear in mind is the fact that in democracy voting is the voter’s right and whom he votes for cannot be dictated. Political parties are entitled to use their powers and art of persuasion but the final decision lies with the voters. If BN or MCA were to ask the Chinese voters: “Why did you abandon us?” could not they turn around and retort by saying: “You abandoned us so we looked elsewhere for support.” Surely, BN is not expecting this answer.
The way BN has been going around castigating the Chinese community, UMNO especially, all those who narrowly escaped and those who have been jettisoned, reminds of a husband who had been bullying his wife for many years. Once she decided enough was enough and went away with another man, the husband began to weep and wail complaining to the whole world that his wife had run away with another man: she is a whore and so on and so forth. He forgot his own misdeeds.
Looking at the overall results, BN is indeed fortunate to have garnered simple majority with the help of Sabah and Sarawak. In Peninsula Malaysia UMNO had suffered unexpected losses even in areas which have been considered by it as safe.
Najib must also remember that some of BN’s decision had indeed yielded negative results such as giving away Pasir Mas constituency to PERKASA stalwart Ibrahim Ali who was wholeheartly supported by Tun Dr. Mahathir. Mahathir had in fact remarked that leaders like Ibrahim Ali are needed to protect Malay interests. Similarly, another person who had been overly abusive of Hindu religion and its practices was given a parliament seat to contest. Either Najib has poor memory or he must be thinking that this is what is meant by equality and freedom of expression whereby the minority groups have no choice but to accept such humiliations and live with them. This is another course adopted by the BN that had caused fear in minds of the voters.
Another factor which may have cost BN its votes is its willingness to align itself with political opportunists who had earlier been so critical of BN and the Government and who had gone in a rampage against Malaysia on foreign soils. This new friends did more harm than good for BN.
It is an incorrect or very presumptuous for BN to act as if the Malaysians from every walk of life owe allegiance to it; instead it has to be pragmatic and accept the position that it has to work hard to win the respect and the support of all Malaysians. BN should stop thinking that it is entitled to unflinching loyalty from the citizens. No such right exists. In democracy the voters have both the rights to empower and to put paid to that power. BN should therefore stop this blame game and get on with tackling problems that are troubling every section of the Malaysian society.
Turning to Pakatan, they must be disappointed as they could not capture Putra Jaya. They complain that there have been serious violations; if they have a case with reliable evidence, then they should go to the court, and the court will not be testing the people’s verdict but will look into the illegal methods exercised to collect the votes. From People’s verdict to Court’s verdict. This could have been avoided had the Election Commission discharged its duties in a professional manner. PKR must also consider whether it is apposite to prolong the agony and keep the election issue alive when it should settle down and begin to work at grassroot level to improve its position.
Malaysians do not desire to prolong controversies. There got to be an end and we must move on. PKR should consider on working to improve electoral registers fraught with irregularities. It should consider what steps may be appropriate to clean up the electoral registers that allegedly contain voters who are not qualified, especially those illegals who became citizens with the blessings of Mahathir.
Overall both sides can claim they have been victorious, or both have lost. Much will depend how they analyze the results. True Malaysians will be happy that the ruling party has been denied two-third majority. This election also had categorically sent the message that Malaysians will no longer tolerate racial as well as religious abuse.
This general election had in fact put all the parties on notice that racial and religious politics are definitely out and telling the politicians that it is time to change their attitude. It is evident that the mindset of the Malaysian voters had changed, thus the political parties have to change. Are politicians ready? This is also a parliament alike the previous one. Both sides will have to work together for the good of the country and the people, without discrimination. This is also another experiment, or a test which both parties have to go through and satisfy the Malaysians that they will put aside party interests and sectional interests and work towards better, harmonious Malaysia. You can only save Malaysia if all are treated as Malaysians and respected as Malaysians.