Here You have it, Mr. Jaafar: The Malapportionment of Blame

May 12, 2013

Here You have it, Mr. Jaafar: The Malapportionment of Blame

by Tricia Yeoh (05-11-13)@

COMMENT In the past week, two Malay newspapers Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! chose to have as their headlines controversial statements that could be considered incendiary in reference to the Chinese having rejected Barisan Nasional in favour of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat, following the results of the 13th general elections held almost a week ago.

NONEBoth former and current Prime Ministers Dr Mahathir Mohamed and Najib Abdul Razak (right) have said as much, creating the public perception that this election marked out the stark difference in voting patterns between the Malays and Chinese, especially in the latter’s reference to a ‘Chinese Tsunami’.

Malaysians have to caution against this ethnic positioning as an easy blame game, for several reasons. First, it is more accurate to state that the results saw a split between urban and rural voters, hence a spatial and class, rather than an ethnic, divide.

NONEPakatan strengthened its incumbent position by winning two-third majorities in Selangor and Penang, the two most industrialised and urban states, which together contribute to the almost 60 percent of the country’s GDP.

In Selangor, the only parliamentary seats won by Barisan were in the more rural or semi-urban areas such as Sabak Bernam, Sungai Besar and Tanjong Karang.

In Seremban, DAP candidate Anthony Loke would not have won with more than a 12,000 majority (and a 16,501 swing) had it not been for Malay support, where Malays constitute 44 percent of the seat’s population.

Flawed Argument gets nailed

The argument that Opposition gains were only due to Chinese swing is also not fully accurate, since Malay-majority seats such as Kuala Terengganu (89 percent Malay, 10 percent Chinese) were wrested by Pakatan with a 10,785 majority (and a 11,413 swing). Both are urban seats.

It is ,therefore, too simplistic to attribute the Opposition’s gains to racial polarisation, since one must equally examine class and geographical differences.

Second, the allegations of electoral fraud make it difficult for accurate analysis to take place.Pakatan has accused the electoral system of being rigged through a number of ways, such as providing identity cards for foreigners to vote, flying them into the peninsula en masse from East Malaysia, and Malaysians having their names either removed from the voter roll or registered without their knowledge, ‘indelible ink’ that was very easily removed, and vote-buying, among other discrepancies.

If the fraud is indeed as widespread as alleged, then this raises serious concerns as to the legitimacy of the election results, which has a direct effect on our reading of voter sentiment.

Out of the 24 parliamentary seats with a majority of less than 1,500, 17 of them were eventually won by Barisan – including Bentong and Kuala Selangor, where initial results saw the Pakatan candidates leading.

In many cases, the number of spoilt votes exceeded the majority, and the majority was less than 4 percent of the total number of votes, the latter of which would have required a recount although this was denied in Kuala Selangor.

Game of Statistics stripped

Barisan is now the federal government because it bagged 133 seats out of the 222 in total, giving it a majority of 22 seats.  However, a series of questions must be asked: Could the Barisan win at the federal level be attributed to the wins in these marginal seats, some of which had their results changed after the recounts?

NONEIf so, should the Election Commission not investigate the alleged fraud cases that could have affected the outcomes of the razor-thin wins of such seats, which in turn would have led to a very different result?

Finally, statistics are emerging that demonstrate the effects of malapportionment on the election results. Pakatan’s 89 seats had an average of 63,191 votes cast, compared with Barisan’s 133 seats which had an average of 39,381.

Simply put, Pakatan won in the seats with larger constituencies, while Barisan won in the smaller ones.  This explains the Barisan win, despite Pakatan having won the popular vote with 51.4 percent of the population’s support and Barisan with 48.6 percent.

Moving forward, both political coalitions – together with civil society – will have to reflect deeply upon what actions are needed to address these issues, as well as their mid to long-term implications.

Time to look at Naked Truth

There is an urgent need for Pakatan to craft messages that better target the low-income, rural and Malay voters, assuring them that their lifelines would not be cut off without Umno around.

Barisan has to take a good look at its coalition model, since its component parties MCA and Gerakan are effectively depleted. It will also have to examine the reasons for which urban, middle-class voters rejected their offerings so resoundingly.

In order for the alleged electoral fraud to be taken seriously, cases have to be systematically compiled and recorded.

BERSIH 2.0 has stated it would organise a People’s Tribunal to this end, while PKR has appointed newly elected Member of Parliament Rafizi Ramli for its compilation purposes. This will be in addition to the election petitions expected to be filed by Pakatan parties in 20 constituencies or so, in which the winning margin was less than 5 percent.

It is hoped that the lawsuits, which must be filed within 21 days after the results are gazetted, would be an effective recourse sought by Pakatan in seeking justice for what it considers an unfair elections.

Even if these efforts, accompanied by hard evidence, fail to ultimately impact upon the election results, they would still be crucial for the court of public opinion in the coming months, for historical record as well as valuable lessons learnt in order to better prepare for the 14th general election.

Why GE-13 should be toasted

Finally, it is clear that without genuine electoral reform, even an election which is the most fundamental form of democracy would not be conducted fairly, nor its citizens’ votes respected.

In a system where parliamentary seats are not fairly weighted nor apportioned, the party with minority support emerges the victor.  This is an unfortunate consequence of the way constituencies are demarcated at present, which can only be amended with a two-third majority support in Parliament.

Before political analysts deduce that this was an election that divided Malaysia racially, one must be cognisant that if not for these irregularities, a very different result would have emerged.

Coming to a conclusion based on the election results at merely face value would not be entirely accurate.  If anything, it must be pointed out that young urban-dwellers voted across ethnic lines for the opposition against a corrupt regime, a trend that will only continue given that urbanisation is expected to exceed 70 percent by 2020.

It is this that should instead be celebrated and not conveniently ignored, in the desperate need to explain the worst election performance in Barisan’s history as entirely due to the racial divide.

In the journey towards a more open, transparent and democratic Malaysia, the 13th general election has raised even more questions on electoral processes, which if not corrected, will have a permanent mark on all future elections.

T Yeoh

Ms Yeoh’s background

TRICIA YEOH is Research Director of Institut Rakyat, Parti KeADILan Rakyat. She previously served as Research aide to Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, Menteri Besar, Selangor Darul Ehsan.

13 thoughts on “Here You have it, Mr. Jaafar: The Malapportionment of Blame

  1. Well written piece and to me, it serves as a serious rebuttal of the views expressed by Mr Jaafar in his New Straits Times’ article, which I posted earlier.–Din Merican

  2. Its very very ominous that Najib continues to attack Pakatan and blaming rather than take leadership.

    What we have is a govt that has no plan for the future. In defensive mode. The signs are all over the place – the MB appts so far, the priority to sell potential of change rather than an actual program, payment and incentives to Sabahan politicians to stay loyal to UMNO/BN, hugging and consolation of Ibrahim Ali, Zul Nordin, Hasan Ali, Muhiyiddin giving message of platitudes of what UMNO wants to hear but no real suggestions..

    The signs are all there, no leadership, no real plan, just a lot of political machinery..

  3. Some people are great because they are great. Some are great because they associate with people who are great. While others are great because the event of the times make them great. Whatever it is we urgently need a great person form any of the above category to stand up and take this country to the great heights it deserves. As each elections and year passes by that window of opportunity is slowly but surely diminishing as we are forced to share our finite resources with not only a growing populations but also citizens from other countries who are brought in to what is claimed by our leaders to the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs that Malaysians do not want to do or do not want to do because the wages for these jobs have no correlation with that of those who belong to the Putrajaya class.

    In this day and age race, religion, political affiliation means very little if we do not have a stable environment to enjoy those luxuries. We have to do something and very quickly. Since I returned to live in Malaysia in 2003 all items related to cost of living have doubled. Only yesterday my favourite restaurant along Jalan Gasing charged me to my horror RM12.00 for a Chicken Tandoori.

  4. When election results revealed that more Chinese are supporting the opposition,Najib simply put the blame on Chinese tsunami to ease himself of his actions and inactions without making a research on the actual ground level. In order to understand different groupings of urban and rural folks, there is a vast difference in thoughts as urban folks lean towards national policies and issues that make up of the decision to vote on polling day unlike the rural folks in Sabah and Sarawak especially where they are simple and easily accept the tune to sweet melodies with some goodies to win over them . The question that BN lost support mostly in urban and semi urban locations comprising Chinese, Malays Indians and others and not Chinese alone. It was a Malaysian tsunami to put it simply.

  5. Tricia dam good work but all facts and figures you have given will be like water on a duck’s back. Never fear the good will prevail thanks to you and othes

    The dumb main line press and the barisan goons will never understand. God bless Malaysia

  6. Why is P. Ramlee loved and still loved by all?
    P. Ramless portrays the naked truth of romancing.
    Romeo and Valentino as well.

    Their styles are still much valid today and applicable to our ra’ayat
    Our ra’ayat needed to be romance by simple uncorrupted truth.

    It seemed that a Perak royalty fell for P.Ramlee’s simple romance
    She got booted from palace, lived in KL, and that romance lived in her.

    P.Ramlee is the party. She is the ra’ayat. The relationship is People’s Power.
    Get the picture folks? This is why reconciliation is just dead-cat-bounce; unsustainable!

    We are fortunate to have P. Ramlee storylines. Some neighbourng countries dont have this soulfood to engage the public.

  7. Enough of threats of May 13 being dished out to the chinese each time Umno leaders dont get their ways. Seriously, this May 13 thing is getting old. And if Umno and their goons wanna fight in the streets, lets have it then.

    The only way to end this nonsense and put to bed this May13 bogeymen is to face up to Umno.

  8. Hope.

    We who have seen May 13, have gotten over racial politics. We took the bitter pills and resiliencely survive though we have all opportunities to greener pastures. We lived to see this day when racial differences are more resolved in Pakatan than in BN which still advocate racial parties. BN now say no Chinese representation in BN. No need that as Pakatan is good enough representation.

    GE13 has shown Racial parties’ days are gone so has MCA, GERAKan and MIC. Go practice that in EM, not WM anymore.

    There was a previous lady umno leader ranting about May 13 before GE13? She was so despicably spat at and beaten by clogs at some ta-siu-yan rituals. It went so far as to screen May 13 movie in oil palm estates because those at estates could be bluffed. Mahathir had no guts to screen that movie to urbanites. He knows it will do him plenty bad. Watch if anyone will put the film on YouTUBE and how the social media will react.

  9. Naked truth? Here’s another one. PR should be treating all new Malaysian citizens with respect they deserve. All foreigners who reside in Malaysia legally, who pay income tax and contribute to the Malaysian economy and thereby are granted citizenship shall be accorded the same rights as any Malaysian citizens and that includes their rights to vote. Period.
    Ignore them at your peril for they are the new fix deposits for votes for UMNO. It is time to strategize on how to win them over. Ostracizing and treating them as second class won’t do, I am afraid.

  10. Chua Soi Lek has drummed into the Chinese head – a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS. The Star reminded us daily trough its full pages of ads. Now why blame the Chinese who in effect is voting for PAS. Or are you telling me PAS is helm by Chinese. Blame it on MCA – they just shot themselves in the foot. Blame in on BN as it has condone MCA’s strategy. It is no longer effective to whisper one set of propaganda to the Malays and the opposite set to the others! The growing middle class is discerning and is not what you ELITES think! For BN to survive it must rebrand. Stop finding scapegoats. Sack Vincent Lee, Wong Chun Wai, Joceline and get rid of Barandan Kuppusamy. Monday is a rest day – stop buying The Star on Mondays.

  11. Better still Chua Soi Lek, they voted directly for PAS. What say you now?
    The MCA is erased, utterly. They sponsored chain dinners in Penang yet the minds of Penangites are made up; without of without HC college conversion for justice is more important.

    If need to we can vomit those meals, they didn’t taste right. You just forgot how to cook well.

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