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The ‘yellow’ death knell rings

 | July 4, 2011

The Bersih rally issue is an ominous portent of even worse things to come for Umno in the coming general election and beyond.


The ruling Umno government, their Barisan Nasional allies in tow, is in really very serious trouble for the first time in more than 50 years. The promised yellow shirts and scarves movement of Bersih, the hard-core NGO, is certainly an ominous portent of even worse things in store for Umno in the run-up to the forthcoming general election and beyond.

The watershed 2008 general election, when the opposition swept into power in five states, took Kuala Lumpur and denied the BN the coveted two-third majority, pales in comparison.

Blame the troubles ahead for Umno, as in the Middle East and neighbouring Thailand, on the penetrating power of the various Internet tools and options at the disposal of the general populace. Umno’s propaganda machinery no longer works in the face of private emails, chat boxes, Skype, google, twitter, email groups, weblogs, online news portals, text messaging and the encrypted Blackberry messaging system.

Enough is enough, many people on the street appear to have decided, and they want the BN completely out from power, not later during the general election, but now. There’s a story behind this emerging mind-set among the voters.

The poor performance of the BN government since 2008, reflected in the lackadaisical implementation of various programmes pledged by the government propaganda machinery, appear to be the least of their concerns. The promised budget allocations are not getting through to the delivery points except on paper and this reveals that it’s all merely even more hype than usual from Putrajaya.

No one, as a result, is taking any interest whatsoever in the various initiatives that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak keeps talking about all the time to psyche himself up for the coming general election.

Mention must be made specifically of the various so-called initiatives viz. Government Transformation Programme, the Economic Transformation Programme, the National Key Result Areas, the Key Performance Indexes, 1Malaysia and the like.

Rising prices, less than a living wage, and the continuing influx of illegal immigrants and foreign labour appear to be more of an immediate concern or the electorate. This is reflected in the traditionally pro-BN civil service being equally divided of late between the ruling party and the opposition alliance, as the latest projections by most pollsters in the country show.

People yearn for real change and reform

Above all, the people want to see the prospects of real change and reform emerging in the country. So far, the more things appear to change in the country, the more they appear to remain the same. So much for the promises made by Umno and BN.

The people are no longer taken up by idle talk, empty, centred on mere materialistic considerations punctuated by constant distractions and disruptions to take away their focus on demanding real change and reform.

The July 9 rally planned by Bersih, for one, appears to be an elaborate smokescreen to set in motion a chain of events which the opposition hopes will result in the toppling of the Umno-led federal government. The rally takes its cue from a statement by Najib himself not so long ago, calling on Umno members to “defend Putrajaya at all costs”. The “by hook or crook” element implied in the statement set alarm bells ringing in opposition circles.

They did not have long to wait.

They have since discovered to their ultimate horror that Umno and BN have taken a leaf from Sabah politics to implement on an even grander scale in Peninsular Malaysia.

It’s an open secret that Umno managed to seize control of the Sabah state government from the Dusun-based and led multiracial Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) in 1994 after padding the electoral rolls with illegal immigrants. The election court on Likas in 1999 revealed the shocking details. Electoral rolls in Sabah were padded with illegal immigrants under the infamous Projek IC Mahathir.

The ruling party, it’s feared, is planning to likewise pad the electoral rolls in Peninsular Malaysia with illegal immigrants as voters in strategic areas to wrest back gains the opposition made in 2008.

If Umno can pull off the desperate plan it has allegedly hatched in recent months, reportedly upon former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s advice, BN will not only win back its two-thirds majority in Parliament but the opposition turf will be reduced in the ultimate analysis to just Kelantan and Penang. This is just to give the world the semblance of free and fair elections in Malaysia.

So, it would appear that Bersih’s call for free and fair elections is not so much about the past but the future i.e. the looming general election which might be called as early as this November after the annual October budget session in Parliament. The difference this time is that the budget would be tabled in the first week of October and not the last week as in the past. The thinking is that a basket of goodies in the budget, to foster the feel good factor, could be immediately followed by a snap general election riding on the padded electoral rolls.

It’s unlikely that Bersih can topple BN in the days and weeks following July 9. The opposition would have to wait for its turn at the forthcoming general election.

Within hair’s breath of seizing power

If the general election is free and fair, and transparent, BN would not be able to repeat its performance of 2008 in its fixed deposit states of Sabah and Sarawak where only one parliamentary seat respectively fell to the opposition. The latest projections show that BN is set to lose at least seven parliamentary seats in Sarawak and three in Sabah. That translates into another 10 seats for the opposition in Parliament.

In Peninsular Malaysia, given reasonably free and fair elections as in 2008, the opposition can at worst maintain the status quo. The alternative scenario is that it would come within a hair’s breath of seizing power in Putrajaya.

All these projections would go out through the window if the next general election is riddled with massive electoral fraud in Peninsular Malaysia as in Sabah.

The July 9 Bersih rally is a warning shot across the bow from PAS and PKR.

Their other partner, DAP, appears to be staying out of the rally as they are confident of retaining their new stronghold in Penang.

Likewise, Hindraf Makkal Sakthi and its political wing, the Human Rights Party, are a picture of studied neutrality on July 9. These two movements have already pledged that they would not budge on July 9 unless Bersih and Pakatan Rakyat accept and recognise their 18-point agenda for change and reform. The message is clear: “Indian votes are not for free”.

These two movements, as much as anyone else, are all for free and fair elections. However, free and fair elections are very much less of a concern for them since they have no pretensions to vying for posts, positions and projects, much less forming the government.

So far, there has been nothing but a deafening silence from Pakatan. Instead, Bersih has adopted an Indian face for the movement in the form of former Bar Council president S Ambiga.

There will be plenty of trouble in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Egypt-style, if the opposition alliance does not at least hang on to the gains of 2008. In that case, there’s no telling where the situation in the country will lead. But some idea can be gleaned from the script being played out in the Middle East and Thailand.


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