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The dust settles on BN’s victory

 | May 8, 2013

The reality is that Pakatan is now in a position where it can more effectively keep BN on its toes.

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Facebook profile pictures have gone black in protest of the prevailing status quo, following Barisan Nasional’s weakest electoral performance in history.

The results have yielded a tremendous mood of disappointment communicated over social media, which represent the urban middle-class constituencies that came out in full force for Pakatan Rakyat.

This election proves that the two coalition system is now firmly entrenched and that the opposition’s core principles of fighting corruption and creating more equitable wealth distribution resonate deeply with the electorate; the message has never been clearer to those in Putrajaya.

DAP delivered its strongest performance at the polls to date, retaining Penang while the opposition coalition made significant inroads in Sabah, Sarawak, and Johor.

The results are reflective of real demographics, and for the most part, these were reasonably fair elections that passed with no major incident.

Barisan retained Putrajaya thanks to support from the rural electorate who felt like the development projects and populist policies on offer were the safest bet.

Emotional refutations of the poll results have gone viral, along with slogans such as “R.I.P. Democracy”. The reality is that Pakatan is now in a position where it can more effectively keep BN on its toes; it has convincingly denied the BN its customary two-thirds majority and major opposition figures have retained their seats with solid majorities.

BN’s Ali Rustam fell in Malacca whilst Abdul Ghani Othman lost decisively in Johor; candidates like Raja Zainal Abidin, Saifuddin Abdullah, Kong Cho Ha, and Raja Nong Chik were also defeated.

Although the Barisan retained the Federal government, the doom and gloom seen on social media is not warranted as the opposition asserted itself compellingly. Some would argue Najib’s weak mandate might prove problematic for him in internal party elections, but it’s clear that the rural vote was garnered heavily by the PM’s personal appeal.

Najib is an asset to the Barisan, but his failure to acquire support from the Chinese community will have long-term implications.

Allegations of fraud

Any claims of fraud made by the opposition leader should be submitted to the courts with evidence, and non-partisan monitoring agencies (meaning organisations with no affiliation to Bersih) should be able to corroborate these claims.

Articles from the Sarawak Report website and other less-than-objective sources are making their rounds on social media purporting to show evidence of fraud, however the content of these reports are politicised, speculative, reliant on half-truths and clearly not definitive.

Grand allegations, especially made at politically opportune moments, need to be supported by concrete sources with definitive evidence.

International monitors from Asean countries also monitored these polls, and they claimed that they were as good as they could be. Numerous reports from various monitoring agencies will be released in the coming days, which will provide a clearer picture of the situation.

Needless to say, it was deeply misleading of Anwar Ibrahim to declare ‘victory’ over Twitter before any poll results were even announced.

The hearsay and allegations of the opposition leader have prompted several Malaysian Indians to be physically attacked by voters and prevented from casting the ballots on the suspicion that they were Bangladeshi phantom voters; they filed police reports and were later vindicated.

Such racism, xenophobia, and mob-minded mentalities are a serious concern in a multi-racial country.

Malaysia Airlines has denied the opposition leader’s accusations, and Air Asia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has dismissed rumours that foreigners were flown into Malaysian to place dubious votes; Fernandes invited S Ambiga to review the flight manifests.

Chandra Muzaffar, former PKR deputy president, called Anwar’s allegations illogical, stating, “To me this allegation is blatantly made by Anwar Ibrahim and his friends to create doubts and anger among voters on the election process here… Anwar has failed to substantiate his claims of the matter until now. From the logistics and mathematical calculations, they do not tally at all.”

Chandra who was once Anwar’s close associate, offered critical food for thought when he said he was baffled that people simply believed the allegation without scrutinising the opposition leaders past claims.

He said that it is not against the law for any parties to facilitate transportation for legitimate voters to ensure that they will fulfill their voting rights, “It was not an issue when DAP arranged for transportation for voters in Singapore to come back and vote in Johor. Even PAS is doing it in Kelantan by getting the legitimate voters who live in Southern Thailand to vote. Why is it an issue now?”

Envisioning a new popular movement

If Malaysian activists concern themselves with creating a system that is more reflective of popular sentiment (and more democratic), focusing on difficult-to-prove allegations of phantom voters and other inaccuracies are not the most effective means of deconstructing the significant root cause of their discontent, which is gerrymandering.

Malaysia’s parliamentary system has often been criticised for lumping heavily populated urban areas into few seats, while rural areas are allotted significantly higher seats, allowing a party to form the federal government without a popular vote.

Unofficial reports claim (the EC has not released official figures as of this writing) that Pakatan won the popular vote by a narrow margin, and if that figure proves true, it will lead to more questioning of the parliamentary system and calls to enact institutional reforms that bite down on gerrymandering.

The Pakatan’s failure is attributable to the fractured nature of the opposition coalition, which must unite under a single banner, logo, and come to terms with long standing issues that they have not been able to agree upon.

There is little doubt going forward that the momentum exists for some form of public rally, especially if the opposition leader continues to drum up allegations and appeal to foreign media.

There is a legal process to abide by when challenging election results, and unless the fact can be proven otherwise, the results must be respected.

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at [email protected].


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