Out of so many messages being conveyed by the twin by-elections on June 18, the most important one is, the Opposition probably has no chance to capture Putrajaya in the next General Election. Barisan Nasional (BN) might be able to regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority. A new political scenario will emerge after the next General Election, we might be seeing new political realignment before our eyes. If worst comes to worst, Pakatan Harapan might end up as a one-term alliance.
By learning from the by-elections of Teluk Intan, Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar, BN may emulate a winning formula to defeat the Opposition. The winning formula of BN not only includes money, media and party-state machinery which we often mentioned, but also a self-defeating pattern of the Opposition.
The Opposition’s self-defeat is the major factor for BN’s winning formula to prevail. However, some Pakatan Harapan supporters and politicians continue to blame their defeat on the voters and the Other. Pakatan Harapan will continue losing voters.
The formula to defeat Pakatan Harapan, has to start from the low voter turnout.
We usually assume that if those who are outstation or overseas return to vote in their hometowns, it will increase the winning chance of the Opposition. This would mean that a low voter turnout would help BN to defeat the Opposition.
The voter turnout of Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar were respectively 74% and 71%. On the other hand, the voter turnouts in the 2013 General Election were 88% and 84%. The former reduced by 14%, while the latter reduced by 13%.
As for the Teluk Intan by-election on 31 May 2014, the voter turnout reduced from 80.7% in 2013 to 66.67%, a reduction of 14.03%.
The high voter turnout on 5 May 2013 showed that after the unexpected Malaysian political tsunami in 2008, people thought that they were just in the last mile to change the federal government, therefore making dynamic and historic collective action, flying back to Malaysia to vote from as far as Switzerland or China.
In the next General Election, the people will no longer carry hope to change the federal government, thus the voter turnout will drop.
The total voter turnout for the Parliamentary seats in the 2013 General Election was 84.84%. If the voter turnout continues to drop following the trend of the by-elections, then the voter turnout of the next General Election will only be 70.84%. If reduced by 10%, therefore the voter turnout will be 74.84% (or 75%).
What does a voter turnout of 75% mean?
On the next day after the result of the twin by-elections came out, Malaysiakini Chinese columnist Hew Wai Weng wrote that Parti Amanah Negara (AMANAH) obtained less than 10% of the Malay votes in these two seats.
According to media reports, the President of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (GERAKAN), Mah Siew Keong said that BN obtained 40% of the Chinese votes in Kuala Kangsar. Besides, MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon said that BN obtained support from 35% of the Chinese in Sungai Besar.
Even if BN did not actually get such a high percentage of Chinese votes, the by-election results demonstrated the fact that Pakatan Harapan is losing Chinese votes.
During the 2013 General Election, there were 29 of the Parliamentary seats throughout the country having more than 50% of Chinese voters. The majority of the seats were won by Pakatan Rakyat. In that year, the overall Chinese support for Pakatan Rakyat was as high as 80%.
If Pakatan Harapan loses 10% of the Chinese votes in the next General Election, retaining 70%, how many Pakatan Harapan constituencies will be lost? If 20% of the votes are lost, retaining 60%, how many more constituencies will be lost?
In 2014, Pakatan leader Lim Kit Siang said that in the 13th General Election, Pakatan Rakyat won 46 out of 53 urban constituencies, and won 33 out of 69 semi-urban constituencies.
As AMANAH obtained 10% of the Malay votes in the twin by-elections and we assume this further into the next election, can we still be optimistic for Pakatan Harapan’s performance in the semi-urban areas?
In the next General Election, among the urban and semi-urban constituencies with 75% of voter turnout, if Pakatan Harapan obtains 60% to 70% of Chinese support and 10% to 15% of Malay support, the outcome will be pessimistic.
By that time, simply by grabbing 15 Parliamentary seats from the Opposition, BN will be able to regain the two-thirds majority that they have lost since the 2008 General Election. As for the defeated Pakatan Harapan, whether they can carry on the alliance for more than one term of election, or subsequently realign under a new political scenario, will be in question.
Since Anwar Ibrahim’s imprisonment, the Opposition continuously showed signs of self-defeat. After the dissolution of Pakatan Rakyat, the first phase of road to Putrajaya has ended. The defeat in the twin by-elections might imply that the Opposition’s denial of BN’s two-thirds majority, too, will be in question.
If Pakatan Rakyat era was showing a winning pattern of the Opposition, Pakatan Harapan era is showing a self-defeating pattern of the Opposition.
Under this self-defeating pattern, opposition parties have not only mistaken party competition between political competitors for battle between political enemies, but also having party internal factionalism descending into battle between enemies.
Due to elections, party interests and factional interests, such “friend or foe” political view resulted in blind fighting. The way in dealing with inter-party and intra-party competitions within the Opposition, against competing parties, and also against rivals in the party, is getting similar to the way in dealing against enemy parties. Many followers and supporters of political parties and factions fail to distinguish between competitors and enemies, therefore wasting energy in such battles between friends and foes.
What is more regretful is that under the so-called idealism, such deadlocked “friend or foe” battles have reduced the enthusiasm of the party cadres and grassroots, while also making people lose hope.
When there is no more hope, is there still a need in flying back to Malaysia or going back to one’s hometown to vote?
Political Studies for Change (KPRU)
21 June 2016