Side Views

Voting in confusion — Jema Khan

APRIL 26 — I have not written for a year and a half because the liberal agenda appears to have gained some traction with the Government. They got rid of the dreaded Internal Security Act (ISA). The Emergency Ordinance (EO) is no more. The Banishment Act is history. The Printing Presses and Publications Act has been mellowed. Even the UCCA has been tamed. Although more needs to be done, the Government has at least moved in the right direction and on my part, silence for a time seemed better than agitation.

Of course, we are now in the “silly season” of fierce political rhetoric as both coalitions fight tooth and nail to win the election. Confusion reigns.

On Monday, we saw a senior Umno leader popularly known as “Mat Taib” joining PAS on the pretext that he wants schoolchildren and newsreaders to wear headscarves. It stands to reason that Umno and BN were too liberal for him.

On the other hand, we have BN supporting a candidate for the Shah Alam Parliamentary constituency who in comparison, makes the PAS candidate, Khalid Samad, look like a warm and fuzzy liberal. Perhaps “Mat Taib” himself is confused, in that he jumped from a self-professed moderate party (Umno) to perhaps an even more racially tolerant party (PAS).

Ideologically, both coalitions seem to have a broad range of interest groups but what interest me are the liberal elements. When I attended a talk given by PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar and Umno’s Saifuddin Abdullah in Bangsar last week, it appeared to me that they were both ideologically centrist politicians who shared similar views. While their respective parties and coalitions may project very different propositions, it is good to see fresh ideas and a broad consensus from these two candidates. I hope they both win their respective hotly contested races.

While I have not been politically active in Umno for more than a decade, I did go on nomination day to support my good friend Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed who is contesting in Pulai, Johor. I have been there for him on nomination day since he first contested in 2004 and again in 2008. It is sort of a tradition for me. Ideologically, Nur Jazlan could easily be Najib’s poster boy for moderation and professionalism in Umno.

This time he is going against a PAS heavyweight and vice-president, Salahuddin Ayub. While Nur Jazlan has looked after his Pulai constituency well as its MP, the contest this time around would appear to be closer. Though Nur Jazlan will likely win, his majority may be reduced. Nevertheless, if nomination day is anything to go by, Pulai should have one of the friendliest campaigns of the election.

Having spoken to friends who come from the upper middle class, it appears that no matter who they may support, they all want a peaceful election. Incidentally, while BN could count on the support of the majority of this group in the past, anecdotally today, it appears that the majority of this group may be supporting Pakatan in this election. While this group makes up only a tiny percentage of the electorate, it is interesting to hear their well-articulated rationale for supporting one side or the other as it tends not to hinge on personal gain. The rationales of note that I recall tend to have the same beginning though very different conclusions.

The “give them a chance” rationale for Pakatan supporters would continue with “BN has been in power for too long. Why not give Pakatan a chance for five years and if they don’t perform then we can kick them out”. For BN supporters, it would be “…give them a chance. Najib needs more time for his transformational programmes to take hold”.

The “we can’t take the risk” rationale for BN supporters would continue “ because Pakatan has divergent ideologies and it will be a mess if they govern”. For the Pakatan supporters “...we can’t take the risk as Najib cannot even control his own party and if this continues, our debts will spiral out of control to feed their corrupt habits”.

The “both parties are useless but” rationale would continue for the Pakatan supporters with “at least we will have less corruption”. For the BN supporters “…both parties are useless but at least Najib has an idea of how to move our economy forward”.

There are of course many other issues to debate out there, but suffice to say, clarity is not ruling the day. My friends and I may differ on who we will actually vote for but the only thing that I am clear on, is that whoever wins the government, we will still be friends after all this is done and dusted.

While this election seems extremely competitive and the results seem difficult to predict, I will take a stab at it. I will start with my home state of Sabah where I feel confident that the opposition Pakatan Rakyat will have between three and five MPs this time compared to only one in 2008. I am less confident on my predictive abilities for Sarawak but on paper it would seem that Pakatan should have around seven MPs this time compared to only one in 2008. Thus, it would seem fair to surmise that BN will have a net loss of about 10 MPs in Sabah and Sarawak compared to 2008. This being the case, all things being equal, BN will have 130 MPs overall compared to its 140 MPs in 2008. That assumes no further losses or gain to BN in Peninsula Malaysia.

I am least confident of all predicting the outcome in Peninsula Malaysia because it is difficult to gauge the Malay sentiment this time around. For once, the Chinese sentiment appears clear and my guess is that around 75 per cent will support Pakatan. The Indian sentiment is less clear but I will guess around 60 per cent would support Pakatan. For BN to lose the Government, they would have to lose around 20 MPs in Peninsula Malaysia compared to 2008 if my analysis for Sabah and Sarawak is correct. Could that happen?

There are 2.5 million more new voters this time compared to 2008 and how they vote will be key to who wins this election. If two thirds of these new voters go for Pakatan, then I believe that BN will narrowly lose. If BN can get 40 per cent of these new voters, then it will narrowly hang on to Government. On paper, it appears to be a very tight race indeed.

My only provisos would be on two issues that if either were to resonate with the voters, would lead to a strong win for BN or Pakatan. If the voters really appreciate BR1M and vote accordingly, then BN will be in for a strong victory. On the other hand, if Pakatan’s call for “ubah” or change were to take hold, then it may lead to a strong win for Pakatan. Aside from these two issues taking hold, I would say that the winning party would only have a majority of around 10 seats on May 6.

We may actually end up with a more confused state of affairs after the election than before but at least we will have a result. I hope we can all learn to respect and live with the result no matter how close it may be. Whatever one’s political affiliations, I hope everyone comes out to vote on May 5 to exercise their democratic right. “Selamat mengundi” and may Allah keep us all safe.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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