Why PPBM has the rural votes

Rais-HussinBy Rais Hussin

Thanks to the efforts of the opposition since 2008, if not earlier, the “gelombang” in Malaysian electoral politics has not peaked and probably never will. And this is true for the politics of the right as well as the left.

Just as the cost of living has risen in most other advanced and developing economies, the same holds true in Malaysia.

Let’s take the UK, for example – a country which Malaysia has emulated based on corporatisation. Prior to Brexit in June 2016, to the surprise of many, David Cameron led the Conservative Party to a two-third majority victory.

This was the first majority in more than 10 years, as across the board all elections in the 27-member bloc in the European Union (EU) had seen either a minority or mixed government.

Thinking – erroneously as it was – that he had successfully breached the vote bank, Cameron took another gamble. He promised to subject the withdrawal of the UK from the EU to a referendum. This time, he lost. The whole of UK lost. Badly, as Brexit will unleash the forces to split Scotland or Wales away from the UK one day.

And, in her attempt to reverse the lack of majority in the Conservative government, which was merely at 17 seats, Theresa May called for another snap election in June 2017.

Not only did she lose the 17-seat majority held by Cameron, she lost by a wider margin that allowed her main opponent, the Labour party – that is, from the left – a gain of 26 parliamentary seats! The right lost to the left due to the rise in the cost of living, which is a menace also confronting Malaysia.

Across the English Channel, a new upstart in the form of Emmanuel Macron defied all traditions by first winning the French presidency in May 2017, then leading his party to win even more parliamentary seats in the French Parliament, thus giving him more executive and legislative power to govern France.

Anything familiar to Malaysia? Yes. The left-centre Macron won without the support of any party structure, which is a case similar to PPBM.

What is interesting in the French and British cases is that the voting patterns look very similar to the Malaysian electoral pattern, even non-electoral patterns where the voters keep voting for those who help them understand how the government has ransacked their treasury and raised the cost of living.

PPBM is clearly committed to working with the opposition to highlight the cost element, which has indeed eroded us completely.

PPBM and opposition parties like PKR and Amanah, if they unite, can snare all the rural Malay votes.

Even in Asia, the trends reflect that the winds are in the favour of PPBM and the opposition.

In the case of South Korea, a leftist candidate, Moon Jae In, won two-thirds of the majority to become president of South Korea after displacing Park Geun-hye for corruption and cronyism. Eighty percent of the voters were driven by job concerns – not the threat of North Korea.

In the case of Japan, Yuriko Koike, coming from the progressive centre-right of Japan, swept to a majority in the Tokyo municipal elections with more than a hundred seats! This signalled the impatience of the people in Tokyo with the slow growth of Abenomics which only gained traction last month – too late to pacify the city folks.

If Malaysia is growing, as the government says, why can’t the urban people enjoy the benefits, or even send extra money home to their parents in the villages? Again, PPBM and the opposition have the upper hand, and have been in villages to explain their lack of income in hand far longer than Umno.

Be it in Japan or South Korea, it was the disenfranchised workers that organised themselves into a powerful bloc. The same went for UK and France. All workers, whether from the left or centre or right, were sick of the status quo. And if the establishment has been enmeshed, since 2009, in the corruption of 1MDB, the impact on the cost of living is, of course, real. Every billion wasted is one billion less for workers, students and government staff. And 1MDB has gotten Malaysia into an allegedly RM44 billion conundrum based on over-gearing and debt, some of which has disappeared into thin air.

Of course, in the case of the United States (US), the poor and under-privileged Americans – especially the blue collar, white minorities, low-skilled, low-income workers – have also united in their defiance of convention by electing President Donald Trump into office.

Although widely seen as a freak election result, the scale and strength of the blue collar votes was so massive that it put Trump, who was a novice, into power! Again, the opposition and PPBM must capitalise on such sentiments to be the first among equals against BN.

Now, the elections in the US, France, UK, South Korea and Japan, have shown one powerful conclusion: Blue collar workers, indeed, rural and village folk, hidden and lodged deep in the pockets of unknown constituencies, are fed-up. Immensely fed-up. They haven’t given up on their countries, which is why they keep electing new leaders into government, but neither have they given in to their own frustrations.

In Malaysia, the ground is so very fertile. People are angry. Rural or urban. It is now the opposition’s task to accentuate the anger to action by strategic narratives through strategic mediums that will inspire the voters to vote BN out.

It is clear that Abdullah Badawi and Najib Razak’s joint mismanagement over the last fourteen years and counting has led to what economists like Professor KS Jomo have called “piratisation”.

How long can Malaysians tolerate the extent to which this country has been ransacked and pillaged? The financial bleeding has been non-stop since October 2002 when Dr Mahathir Mohamad left the government with a surplus budget.

Of the 119 rural constituencies in Malaysia, almost all are semi-rural too. They are within two hours away from a boat, bus or train ride to a major city or centre. Indeed, 75% of the Malaysian economy is driven by the economies of Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang alone.

The workers in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang may not have come across a party candidate from PPBM. They may not even have heard of Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, a top passionate debater, let alone myself.

But they have heard of the power of the three Ms in the form of Mahathir, Muhyiddin and Mukhriz! And all three of them have trudged through all 119 constituencies in Malaysia at one stage or another.

And all three Ms have never dragged the name of Malaysia through the mud, as Najib and his cabinet did. Indeed, of the whole cabinet, only Ahmad Husni, the second finance minister, has had the conviction to resign.

If the global electoral patterns are telling Malaysia anything, it is that those who have the courage – despite no party structures – will win.

Indeed, of the three million members that are ostensibly in Umno, throughout the general election in 2008, and again in 2013, hardly more than 1.1 million Umno members cared to vote at all. That leaves 1.9 million Umno members free to vote for PPBM too.

What PPBM wants is not a domineering role over Pakatan Harapan. That would be unjust, as credit must be given where credit is due. The opposition in the form of DAP, Amanah and PKR, even some elements of PAS that belonged to the faction of Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Ismail and Mustapha Ali, has worked very hard.

With at least 1.9 million disgruntled Umno members, plus another 30% from the 1.1 million members in Umno, PPBM has the ability to cross the two million threshold of the rural village votes in Peninsular Malaysia, with the hope that Sabah will likewise do the same through Parti Warisan Sabah, led by former Umno stalwart Shafie Apdal charging from the rural heartland.

When PPBM, Amanah, DAP and ideally enlightened PAS members have all the rural constituencies and urban constituencies encircled, the end of Najib will be nigh and near.

Rais Hussin is a supreme council member of PPBM. He also heads the Policy and Strategy Bureau of PPBM.

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