May 7, 2013
GE-13–The Great UMNO-BN Heist
by Terence Netto@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: Malaysia’s 13th general election will come to be known as the ‘Great UMNO-BN heist’.
Electoral larceny on this scale has to be seen to be believed that it can still happen in a wired world, with its perpetrators apparently confident that they can pull it off and expect the public to acquiesce in the travesty. Sure, faith in the credulity of the hoi polloi is the hallmark of authoritarians. The latter feel they can get Joe Public to believe anything they put out.
Long inured to this practice and unable to shed its reliance on its efficacy, the UMNO-BN government has retooled a famous line from Humpty Dumpty (“A word is anything I say it means”) to sound something like this: “Our version of what took place is all there is to it” when faced with public scepticism about any action of theirs.
This has led to some of the more bizarre incidents in the public record, such as the reversal, within 24 hours in July 2008, of the contents of a private eye’s statutory declaration on the alleged shenanigans of then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak in connection with a famous murder case.
That surreal reversal was allowed to pass into the steadily accumulating lore of ‘Malaysia Boleh’, a phenomenon that owes its infamy to the 22-year rule of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was witness to an astonishing number of incidents which took place on his watch that beggared belief.
The top of this range was his one-time deputy Anwar Ibrahim’s abrupt fall from grace as anointed successor to corrupt and deviant ingrate. In fact, these sudden reversals or volte-faces had left a once poorly-informed public – this prior to the emergence and popularity of the Internet – groping as to what to belief whenever something weird happens.
But since the general election of March 2008, this deficit has been repaired with a surfeit of stuff on the net, leaving Internet-connected Malaysians lagging only by a little in figuring out what is being concealed when government minders want their version of what has happened to be believed.
A Minority Government
Right now, the government wants the citizens to believe that it has pulled off a victory in Sunday’s general election.
An Internet-saturated public knows that not even the government believes in its own make-believe. A straight face is hard to sustain in the teeth of the results of the vote as put out by the Election Commission by midnight on Sunday.
Malaysian voters, who turned out to discharge their civic obligation in unprecedented numbers on May 5 – an astonishing 85 percent whereas the previous turnout had been 76 percent – are now asked to believe that 5.6 million ballots for Pakatan Rakyat could garner only 89 parliamentary seats.
By contrast, the 5.2 million votes for BN have netted it 133 seats in Parliament’s lower chamber. And we are asked to regard this sorcery with a straight face.
And why not!?
After all, we have been asked, in the last 15 years of our political history, to believe in the authenticity of astounding reversals in the public image of figures that have run afoul of the powers-that-be.
These reversals – their suddenness, the shock they cause and the nature of the obloquy the targets are subjected to – have paved the way to the point where the people are asked to believe in official versions of events (and even non-events) that recall the mindset behind a line from a famous Hollywood movie: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Well, at least myth-making in Malaysian politics is open-sourced in its inspiration, taking its cues from prototypes ranging from the baleful Dr Goebbels to the benign John Ford.
Thus, in the next several weeks, the sheer disparity of a 5.6 million gross of the total vote, from an astonishing 85 percent voter turnout (11 million votes were cast), having yielded only 89 seats to Pakatan whereas the 5.2 million take of the BN’s has afforded them 133 seats is going to be the focus of BN’s capacity for fable generation to transform the incredible into the believable.
True, ours is a system where the weightage given to rural constituencies is such that one vote in a seat like Gua Musang, in Kelantan, is worth three in a place like Kapar in Selangor.
The BN tends to do well in rural seats more than in urban ones and so enjoys an advantage over the urban-popular opposition. But this is not enough to justify the upshot of BN’s 133-seat collection on a 5.2 million take of the total vote when compared to an 89-seat haul from a 5.6 million gross by Pakatan Rakyat.
Though this constitutionally-mandated apportionment of the more-weightage-to rural-seats rule has been distorted under UMNO-BN’s rule to bolster its electoral prospects, the scope of this skewering is not so bad as to sustain credibility in lopsided hauls that make a farce of the one-man-one-vote tenet of democratic choice.
The currency and stock markets have surged on the back of news of the BN victory, and the government can be expected to leverage on that good news. But elsewhere, there is a mood of somnolence that suggests this is one result that reeks of the myth-making of ‘Malaysia Boleh’. It is a mood that says ‘tak boleh‘ (‘no go’) to so immanent a farce.
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