April 17, 2013
GE13: The state of the GE13 race
by Karim Raslan (04-16-13)@http://www.thestar.com.my
Each of the states will experience the polls differently, with localised issues having a major impact on the way voters respond on May 5.
ALL politics is local. In the 13th General Election, this maxim will be all you need to understand the contest as it unfolds across Malaysia.
Through Facebook and Twitter, people have become drawn to ever-smaller communities of shared interest – whether driven by geography, culture, leisure activities or religious faith.
Traditional media have had a lot of catching-up to do to in this respect.At the same time, people’s expectations have changed. Much to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s chagrin, a sense of “gratefulness” has disappeared along with the Sony Betamax video and Motorola handphones.
Voters are no longer willing to be mute recipients of government largesse, kissing the hands of their constituency representatives.Nowadays, local communities want a greater say in how policies are formulated and executed. Consultation is the buzz-word.
Because of this, each of Malaysia’s 13 states will experience the polls separately, with localised issues impacting the way voters respond. Uniformity will be a thing of the past.
I’ve outlined how the contest will unfold in Barisan Nasional’s three “Fixed Deposit” states of Sabah, Sarawak and Johor as well as three Pakatan Rakyat-held states – Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan.
In Sabah, the Barisan’s hold on power will be challenged by the intense dissatisfaction on the west coast, in particular at the way the alleged “Project IC” has come to haunt the state, especially in the aftermath of the Lahad Datu incursion.
A measure of the unhappiness is the call (swiftly rejected by Nazri Aziz, the caretaker de facto Law Minister) by the Barisan’s senior Kadazan leaders for all MyKad identity cards to be recalled and reissued.
Ultimately, however, a divided opposition – Pakatan Rakyat is up against Jeffrey Kitingan’s STAR and Yong Teck Lee’s SAPP – may negate all the furore and Sabah will remain a Barisan fiefdom. In Sarawak, while the towns are bubbling with opposition sentiment, the interior remains isolated and placid.
Limited access to information means that corruption allegations have minimal impact beyond the urban centres. Johor – and especially southern Johor – has become more similar to Singapore.
As the two economies have integrated, political cultures will also be shared and adopted with the Lion City’s increasingly demanding citizenry being the template for political activism.
Channel News Asia’s footprint plus the many tens of thousands of workers crossing the Causeway daily reinforce this trend.
A stupendous rise in the number of registered voters in the south of the state would also seem to indicate that the previously apathetic Singapore-bound workers now wish to exercise their democratic rights.
Moreover in Johor, development is no longer the issue. Iskandar Malaysia has assured everyone that growth will be constant.However, the public debate will shift to questions of equity: who’s getting what, where and how much?
Indeed, Ghani has long been the personification of Johor’s distinctive Malay identity.Should he win in this majority ethnic Chinese constituency, it will be a clear sign that local issues and a specifically plural Johorean appeal would have prevailed over the DAP’s nationally-crafted message.
Selangor is the great prize. As the richest and most populous state, Barisan Nasional has chafed at its inability to seize back this jewel.
A mark of the seriousness with which the Prime Minister views Selangor is his insistence on leading the state’s election charge personally.Independent minded, well-informed and distrusting, Selangor voters will be among the most difficult to satisfy.
Still, Pakatan should hold the advantage because of their more grounded approach while the state’s more rural areas – those beyond a convenient commute into the Klang Valley – will remain with Barisan.
A critical test challenge for UMNO will be the susceptibility of urban and suburban Malays to the party’s traditional political rhetoric as expounded by Dr Mahathir.
Chinese support for the PAS leadership has evaporated and Barisan stands a strong chance of winning the state back, as long as the spectre of internal Umno bickering and sabotage can be overcome.
PAS will suffer losses in Kelantan as voters tire of the state’s mismanagement and the growing drift under an ageing and ailing Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.
What we could very well be seeing is not a national swing either way, but rather separate, individual swings either to Barisan or Pakatan.
This in effect may suggest that neither side will win an overwhelming advantage.Some may groan at this, but that’s the new political reality Malaysians will have to deal with.
As I’ve said before, the era of supermajorities are over and perhaps now the politicians will be forced to learn to work together.