As the thirteenth general election draws near, both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are already now on top gear and gathering momentum to fortify their positions ahead of the election. It may be interesting to note the number 13 associated with this election – for although number 13 is associated with bad omen in western thinking, it does not signify anything special or unusual among the Chinese and perhaps also with the Bumiputera and Indians. Worse still it is unislamic to hold such belief among the majority Malays. So, it is hoped nothing bad will happen during this election. Moreover, it can also be argued mathematically that two negatives (number 13)will bring about a positive outcome.
So most of us may like to believe number 13 may bring something neutral or better still, something good for our country. But will it be good for Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional? Surely it can’t be good for both of them as one will win and the other will lose.
Now let us examine the facts, without considering political rhethorics or propaganda from both sides. It was much easier for me to gather objective data from the previous by-elections. It was obvious the last 5 by-elections were won by Barisan Nasional. In fact I have forecast( in this blog) results of 12 past by-elections, and I only missed the mark once. I also forecast the results of the Sarawak State election in 2010, again I got it right, right up to the number of seats Pakatan Rakyat won.
However, there were no by-elections in almost two years. Objective and accurate data are hard to come by. So I still have to rely on the by-elections and the Sarawak State election, but with adjustments with data that I tried to interpret from opinion surveys by various survey agencies. I feel these indicators should be reliable, though perhaps not as accurate as the those discerned from by-election results.
The improved Malay and Indian sentiments in favour of Barisan Nasional is obvious. The later by-election results, opinion surveys by several polling agencies and turnout at governments events speak for themselves. Prime Minister Najib and Barisan Nasional definitely look more popular today compared with two years ago, which was already an improvement over the last election year in 2008.
The current Indian voter sentiment looks favourable with their warm response to Najib’s initiatives. They respond positively to Najib’s visits and his recent initiatives to address grievances of the Indian community, in stark contrast to situations in 2008 when even Samy Vellu’s presence was unwelcome. It was in 2007/2008 period that the Hindraf protests and demonstrations reached the peak of its prominence and influence. Indian voter sentiment reached its bottom in the history of the country when Barisan Nasional barely obtained 10% of the Indian votes. By contrast, based on the latest Merdeka Centre opinion poll, Najib has 67% Indian voter support today.
In the Peninsula, the Malays are the most steady in their support for BN. It reached the bottom at 50% in the 1999 General Election when Malays were very angry following the Anwar saga; in the 2008 General Election it was actually higher at 54%. These were the elections period when Barisan Nasional and UMNO were in disarray. Today, the table has turned, in particular for PAS which is now facing an identity crisis, and PKR which is turning further and further away from the Malay and Islamic heartland. In this scenario, it is not difficult to read how the Malays will vote in the coming General Election.
The Chinese, on the other hand, have not shown any perceptible shift in their sentiment for Barisan Nasional. It could be at the 40% level of the 2008 General Election, or worse still at 25% as in the recent Sarawak State Election. The opinion polls done by Merdeka Center and other polling agencies also confirm the above.
However, it does not necessarily mean a gone case for Barisan Nasional. Chinese voter sentiment is the most difficult to read as they do not normally show it openly. For of all the major races, they have the largest chunk of fence sitters who could change their support at the last minutes.
During the 2008 General Election, Barisan Nasional did not expect a strong rebuff by the Chinese voters. Even during the 1999 General Election when the Malays deserted Barisan Nasional, the Chinese in a way actually helped to save the BN government from losing its 2/3 majority in Parliament. Yes, they helped Mahathir. Today, if they were given the same choice, nobody would believe that they will still back Mahathir. Instead they would gladly dump him.
Whaetever issues trumpheted openly, the crux of the election issue, as always, in the coming general election actually arises from the racially polarising scenario of Malaysian society, as reflected in the recent by-election and the Sarawak State Election in 2011. The Chinese are unhappy about what they perceive as unfair business and other opportunities against them. The Malays and Bumiputera counter that since as a group they are the poorest in the country, what is wrong if the government continues to give preference to them?
Fortunately, for Barisan Nasional, Najib is at the helm, and he has done everything to please the Chinese community. Giving handouts and assistance to Chinese schools and Chinese associations is the best he could do, although there is still no visible impact. Even Mahathir has done his part to adress the University quota system.
As for the Indian community, Najib has focussed a lot of attentions to address the issues they brought up and gave specific assistance requested. In return, they appear to be grateful and BN apparently is regaining their trust.
As for the Chinese, in deed they are a very difficult community to please. They are very business minded. They are unemotional but calculative, even treating a General Election like a business, in fact, in certain constituencies, like a gambling fiesta.
Like in business, the Chinese don’t like to lose. You may ask; if so, why they voted for the opposition en bloc in the recent Sarawak State Election, although facing a certain defeat. The only possible answer is that DAP managed to persuade them that the Sarawak election results would help Pakatan Rakyat’s momentum to form the next Federal Government with DAP assuming the power behind the wheel.
The Sarawak Malays read the situation well. That was why Barisan Nasional obtained more than 85% support from the Malay/Melanau community, followed by a still sizeable support of 62% by the Dayak. UMNO could only dream of such support in Peninsular Malaysia.
With the above political scenario in the country, the Chinese are now in a real dilemma as to how to vote in the coming General Election. If they stetch their luck too far and vote for DAP or Pakatan Rakyat en bloc, they will likely be unrepresented in the next government, thus isolating themselves into the lonely corner of Malaysian politics.
[The above assertion is made based on a computer simulation analysis of every one of the 222 parliamentary constitencies in the country. I have used this computerised model to predict the outcomes of the 12 past by-election results and the Sarawak State Election 2011 results with great success. Anyone can read all these past predictions carried in this blog].
In the above scenario, the government formed by BN will then be another weak one for the next five years. But the bigger risk is that ultra Malays may gain strength in UMNO in its attempt to get more support from Malays and Bumiputera. Given the environment of distrust that has developed recently, these people would have little sympathies on the plight of the Chinese , which could lead to a prolonged economic difficulties and racial intolerance.
A stable government based on harmonious race relation is definitely a better option and is a prerequisite for continued economic growth in our march to realise Vision 2020.
Overtures made by Najib to the Chinese Community may be read as an attempt to at least arrest the declining support among the Chinese community. There is no need for a majority support, a fairly substantial one should be adequate. It is obvious that he cannot offer more without eroding UMNO’s base in the Malay heartland.
For the Chinese voters, they are likely to hold steadfastly to the Chinese Kiasu spirit. Whatever it means, they are likely to vote wisely in the coming General Election.
2. PRU 13: Calon Boleh Menang (Winnable Candidates) + Lim Kit Siang di Gelang Patah.