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                                                                                                                           Asean Affairs  March 25, 2013  

2013 Elections in Malaysia, an Analysis

By Woei Chyi, MA, Ph.D Candidate (UiBE) China, has been actively participating in Malaysian politics for more than 16 years.

Many discussion and speculations have been going on pertaining to the election in the Federation of Malaysia. In nutshell, all these could be succinctly summarized into three questions. First, when will the election be called? Second, what is the most possible outcome of the election? And finally, what will happen after the election?
The first question is indeed the easiest one. As it is stipulated under Article 55(3) of the Federal Constitution, “Parliament unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for five years from the date of its first meeting and shall then stand dissolved.” Since the first meeting after the previous election was held on 28 April 2008, the parliament will be dissolved not later than 27 April 2013. Otherwise, it will be stand dissolved unless it comes under Article 150 for the Proclamation of Emergency. Although I do not entirely rule out the possibility of the proclamation of emergency in view of the present internal security turmoil in Sabah, but its’ likelihood is frivolous since it will not only injure the overall economy performance of Malaysia but also making the worsening political condition worse.

Now, the second question becomes the concern of everyone. Generally, the predictions are of mix. Some are of positive and some are of negative for the ruling National Coalition (“the incumbent”). Majority of the analysis predicted that the incumbent will be able to retain their political power after the election. The only question remains is whether it will be a landslide victory (more than 148 seats out of 222 seats in total)  or a marginal one (112 – 147 seats out of 222 seats in total) for the incumbent. For this, I concur.

Although politics is an art of possible; but it is possible to predict the outcome of the election in an objective manner. In general, the outcome of election in Malaysia likewise elections in other countries will result into three major scenarios. First, it will be a landslide victory by either side. Second, it will be a marginal win by either side. And third, it will be a hung parliament likewise what Australians experienced in their 2010 General Election. In this writing, I will focus on the first two possibilities since the likelihood of the third possibility is of extremely rare.

Will it be a landslide victory for the incumbent?
Will it be a landslide victory for either the incumbent or the Opposition Pact (“the Pact”) ? In the absence of unfair election practice and manipulations, there is one prerequisite for this to happen. It all hinges upon the “hope” given to the voters. For hope, it motivates votes. Without hope, there is no reason to vote save and except for some attachments and emotional reasons.

Is there a hope given by the incumbent? The answer is in the affirmative despite of how corrupted and scandalous the incumbent was and is. The Economic Transformation Program (ETP) which targets to make Malaysia a high income nation from the present USD6,700 to USD15,000 by 2020; and Government Transformation Program (GTP) which targets to transform the government into an efficient and people-centered institution launched by the Prime Minister Najib Razak since he took over from the former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2008; both have produced some significant and promising impacts on the fence sitters.

In addition, his recent billions financial aids granted to all classes of Malaysians have also produced some “feel good” effects on the fence sitters too. As what Maya Angelou accurately reiterated that “I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This feel good effect may produce sufficient votes for the incumbent to stay on.  

Despite of this, I do not think it is sufficient for the incumbent to entitle a landslide victory. This is simply because whatever has been implemented by Najib Razak does not shaken the perception of hegemony of the National Coalition especially United Malays National Organization (UMNO). This is clearly proven in a survey conducted by Merdeka Center on 28 December 2012.  In this survey, the performance of the Prime Minister has been endorsed by 63% of the respondents. However, this does not translate into the support to the National Coalition which has only recorded 47% endorsement from the respondents.  

On the other hand, the Pact has equally failed to portrait their capability in running the nation which entitles them a landslide victory either. There are a few factors which have resulted this. First, in the context of organization, the Pact indeed is just a marriage for convenience to fight against their common enemy namely the National Coalition. As such, they do not have their common identity, ideology and certainty in their leadership per se. In other words, all the three component parties in the Pact remain independently and will contest in the election on their own ticket. Hence, this explains why the Pact has failed to compromise whether or not to implement Islamic Hudud Law; and in a more recent incident, who shall be the prime minister should they win the election.

Second, in the context of ideology, the Pact has also failed in forming a common ideology for their political cause. Although PKR and DAP both are of multi-racial parties, but PAS, being an Islamic political party; has firmly reiterated their undisguised attempts to implement Islamic Theocratic Policy should the Opposition Pact win the next general election.

Third, in the context of the Pact’s manifesto launched on 25 February 2013, the Pact had failed to provide some convincing remedies in order to address various problems faced by Malaysians.

The Pact, instead of rescuing the deteriorating economy condition in Malaysia, chooses to further “enrich” the populist policies likewise what the Coalition does. For instance, the Pact promises to provide free education from primary to tertiary education, free tolls for highways, low petrol price and waive off the repayment for all study loans. Just to name a few.

Hence, I conclude that there will be no landslide victory by either party in the forthcoming general election. Instead, it will be a marginal win by either party with an advantage to the resourceful incumbent.

Will it be a marginal win by the Pact?
To enable a marginal win by the opposition, there is one prerequisite condition which has to be fulfilled i.e. the support of the political parties and voters in Sabah and Sarawak.    

As a matter of fact, Sabah and Sarawak are crucial for both the incumbent and the Pact. There are 54 out of 222 parliament seats in these two states. Thus, if not the support from Sabah and Sarawak, the incumbent would have been made the opposition in the last 2008 election.

The development since 2008 indicates that the two states are no longer the safety belt for the incumbent. No one will be able to deny that Sabahans and Sarawakians are generally unhappy with the incumbent. The result of 2011 Sarawak state election was indeed res ipsa loquitur. From the only 5% petroleum revenues in the form of royalties given to both states; the “Project IC” (the allegation of systematic granting of citizenship to immigrants; whether or not they are legal or illegal) in Sabah; and to the to the most recent video clip widely circulated by Global Witness pertaining to the corrupt practice by the Chief Minister and his family in Sarawak, all these may mercilessly evaporate the support for the incumbent and lead to the downfall of the incumbent in the forthcoming election.

What will happen after the election?
What will happen after the election? I think it all hinges upon what the election result is. If the incumbent returns with a landslide victory or marginal win, things will remain status quo.

The situation will be altered only if the Pact wins marginally. Why? There are two plain factors which may explain this conclusion. First, since there is no anti-hopping law  in Malaysia and in view of the loose formation of the Pact, it will definitely be a season for “political mating” immediately after the election.

Second, I do not think the incumbent will hand-over their power without putting efforts into persuading each and everyone of the members in the Pact to form a joint-government with the National Coalition. If so, the political norm in Malaysia will be changed. Whether the form government will continue the present practice of secularism, or will Malaysia practice Islamic theocratic policy, etc., I am unsure like many.


“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”  - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Although the practice of voting in its nature is a subjective action; and in some occasions, it may also be an emotional one. But one thing is for sure, every vote is sacred since it is a “prayer” for the betterment of our nation in accordance with the judgment of each and everyone.
Woei Chyi, MA has been actively participating in Malaysian politics for more than 16 years.

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