Brace for dirtiest-ever election campaign


PETALING JAYA: Followers of Malaysian politics can expect the dirtiest campaign tactics they have ever observed when political parties start canvassing for votes in the 14th general election, says analyst Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

Speaking to FMT, he said he expected the campaigning to be the fiercest in Malaysian election history.

“Name calling and character assassination will be at its worst,” he said.

“The opposition will manipulate the issues of 1MDB, the RM2.6 billion donation, the high cost of living and how badly the country is managed.

“Barisan Nasional will portray the opposition as a coalition that cannot unite and is unable to run the country.

“Each side’s manifesto will try to outdo the other with promises to improve the country’s economy.

“BN will use the three Ms — media, money and machinery — to influence voters.”

He said the government might use its TV channels to replay clips of PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli criticising former premier Mahathir Mohamad years ago or of former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin talking good about Umno years ago.

“They will replay this kind of videos over and over again to influence the rural voters.”

He said BN would continue to dangle carrots in front of rural voters by promising more economic development, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, where two thirds of the population are rural.

Asked whether he thought Warisan, the new opposition party headed by former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal, would be able to win over voters in Sabah, Jeniri said: “As of now, the voters feel the opposition cannot govern the country.”

He said BN would, at the last minute, use its massive machinery to convince voters of its credibility as a coalition by pointing to consensus among the member parties on a range of issues, particularly the issue of proposed amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act.

Recently, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a reversal of the government’s decision to table the amendment bill, several weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Putrajaya administration would take over the task from PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. Najib said the latest decision was made after Umno had heard objections from other BN parties.

Jeniri also said it would be wiser for PAS to work with Pakatan Harapan instead of setting the stage for three-cornered fights in the election.

He pointed out that PAS won only 21 of the 73 parliament seats it fought for in 2013. “It’s wiser for PAS to put aside political ego and work with the opposition,” he said.

He also said PAS should not expect to ride on the shariah bill because voters were more concerned about the cost of living and development projects.

He predicted a victory for BN, citing strong support for the coalition in Sabah and Sarawak.

“With BN’s media, money and machinery, it is expected to do a lot better than Pakatan unless Pakatan works as one with PAS,” he said.

The 14th general election must be held by Aug 24, 2018.