MAY 13 — In the recently concluded GE13, we have witnessed quite an obvious trend of the chinese predominantly voting for the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat. The malays on the other hand had been generally supportive of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), barring a few states like Selangor, Kelantan and Terengganu. There has been very little mentioned about the indian voting trend. Therefore this article is intended to shed some light into how the Indians voted, taking into account the local demographics of the various constituencies.
During the build up towards GE13, there had been a lot of chest thumping by Barisan Nasional, particularly by the MIC leadership, that the indian support had returned to pre-2008 levels. It had been speculated that the community anger towards the BN government following the Hindraf instigated 2007 protest and the subsequent ISA crackdown of its key leaders, had subsided following the overtures made by prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The community had also felt letdown by some Pakatan Rakyat state governments – particularly noted was the disillusionment towards the PAS led Kedah state government for failing to honor its promise to declare Thaipusam a state holiday, along with the failure of its state executive councilor Manikumar in managing a lot of issues concerning the indian community residing mainly in the southern tip of the rice bowl state. The community was however noted to be generally very pleased with the performance of the DAP led Penang and PKR led Selangor state governments – particularly in relation to the land issues plaguing the temples & tamil schools, and state employment opportunities for the Indians.
In the days approaching GE13, Najib Tun Razak appeared to have pulled off a coup when Waythamoorthy, leader of one of the many fractions of the fractured 2007 Hindraf movement signed a memorandum of understanding with his government and subsequently urged the indian community to return BN to the parliament with a 2/3 majority.
The effect of this development was quite difficult to be interpreted as there was immediate disapproval from previous Hindraf associates including from non-other than Waythamoorthy’s own brother – P.Uthayakumar, who in the eyes of many among the indian community is still the de-facto leader of Hindraf. There was strong nationwide protest against Waythamoorthy for this perceived betrayal in inking a deal with the UMNO led BN government and this, along with the candidature of Zulkifli Noordin representing BN in Shah Alam parliamentary constituency after having only recently insulted Hindusim and indians over video recordings didn’t bode very well on paper for the BN with regards to indian support.
So how did the indians actually vote at the end? To understand this, let us first look at how MIC fared. In contesting 9 parliamentary seats and 18 state seats, it only won 4 parliament and 5 state seats, immediately already indicating an abysmal result and poor indian support for its candidates. In the 5 parliament seats it lost (Sungai Siput, Kapar, Subang, Teluk Kemang, Kota Raja), they were predominantly urban malay majority seats and this means MIC cannot blame the poor chinese support for BN as a cause for its defeat.
In fact, it’s well known that the BN had on average between 60-80 per cent of malay electorate support for the coalition in GE13 and this therefore indicates that the indians in urban constituencies had ditched MIC in droves. The indian support swing towards PR was so strong that even the malay electorate couldn’t rescue MIC in these constituencies, a fact acknowledged by the MIC secretary general T Murugesan. For example, in Kota Raja parliamentary constituency which has 44 per cent malays, 29 per cent indians and 25 per cent chinese – PAS candidate won by a thumping 29,395 majority, with a vote share of 64 per cent of the turnout. Assuming at best 45-50 per cent malay and 80-90 per cent chinese support for PR, it will still require about 75 per cent support from the indian community to secure the above given majority, and this support proportion was found to be roughly applicable across the other 4 parliamentary seats MIC had been soundly defeated.
Nevertheless, MIC whilst acknowledging poor indian backing in urban areas is still in denial with regards to indian support in the rural areas. They have used the slim victories in Cameron Highlands, Segamat, Hulu Selangor and Tapah to argue their case. However, closer look at these constituencies paints a different picture altogether.
First of all, these seats had only between 10-14 per cent indian electorate, as compared to the likes of Kota Raja with 29 per cent indians, Sungai Siput with 21 per cent indians and Teluk Kemang with again 21 per cent indians.
Secondly, when analyzing the voting streams, the indian majority streams had actually voted for PR. For example indian predominant voting streams in Cameron Highlands like Ladang Sungai Palas, Ladang Blue Valley and Kampung Raja was won comfortably by DAP’s M Manogaran with indian support approximately about 65 per cent for DAP.
Finally, there was a unique factor in each of these constituencies which ensured MIC victory. In Cameron Highlands and Tapah, the presence of 20-30 per cent of orang asli, a well-known fixed deposit vote bank for the BN had negated the gain from the indian support for the PR candidate. In Hulu Selangor and Segamat, the BN had another form of fixed deposit vote bank - large Felda electorate to rely upon to ensure MIC victory, with up to 90-95 per cent of vote share for BN noted in Felda voting streams.
To further illustrate that the indians had ditched BN in GE13 regardless whether it was rural or urban locality, we can use the rural Kedah state seat of Lunas as an example – won by PKR with a huge majority of 9084. The constituency has an electorate breakdown of 46 per cent malays, 28 per cent chinese and 25 per cent indians. BN, which recaptured Kedah, boasts about 55-60 per cent malay support in that state based on neighboring state seats statistics.
If this is applied, PR would have received 40-45 per cent malay support, along with roughly 80-85 per cent chinese support. Therefore for the PKR candidate to have won this seat with such majority, indian support about 75-80 per cent would have been required, again dispelling claims that rural indian support had waned for PR. The same argument can also be applied for other rural/semi-urban ‘indian’ seats where the MIC had been decimated, namely Bukit Selambau (Kedah), Sabai (Pahang), Hutan Melintang (Perak) and Ijok (Selangor).
PR indian candidates fared extremely well in GE13, with solid indian electorate support. A total of 8 indian MPs and 18 Aduns have been elected from the PR side of the divide, compared to the 4 indian MPs and 5 Aduns from BN. Some of the constituencies with highest indian electorates in the country like Prai (36 per cent), Seri Andalas (35 per cent) and Buntong (48 per cent) witnessed massive victories for PR candidates.
Prof Ramasamy, the DCM II of Penang representing DAP secured a whopping 78 per cent of the votes cast in his Prai constituency and his rival L Krishnan of MIC was only about 900 votes away from losing his deposit. Xavier Jayakumar, the former Selangor EXCO won by a whopping 15 633 majority in Seri Andalas, smashing his BN rival – MIC’s youth chief T Mohan. In both these constituencies, analysis of the indian majority streams indicate indian support to be anywhere between 70-80 per cent for the PR to secure such vast majorities.
Therefore this analysis estimates that the indian support in urban areas for the PR to be between 70-80 per cent and in rural areas to be between 60-70 per cent. MIC’s far and few victories were due to either malay Felda settler’s or orang asli’s strong backing for the BN – the last remaining bastion of BN support.
The BN, and MIC in particular had again failed to muster the indian electorate support, faring even worst than in 2008. Their earlier false belief that the indian support had returned to the BN after witnessing a reduction in open agitation by the community, was clearly dispelled based on the GE13 results. The indian electorate had come out in force and voted for PR, matching approximately that of 2008 elections.
* Satees Muniandy is political assistant to DCM II of Penang.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.