Monday, 6 May 2013

The case for fence-sitters

I wrote the following piece as a short article for my Facebook page on the eve of our 13th General Election. This morning, we all know of the final outcome of that event. The ruling political alliance Barisan Nasional have been returned to power, albeit with a poorer performance than their last outing in 2008. The opposition alliance of Pakatan Rakyat did not succeed in their attempt to become the new government.

Both parties are obviously now analysing their results; one is trying to understand why it didn't do so well while the other is perhaps wondering if it had done enough. This is where I think what I wrote earlier would still apply.

The case for fence-sitters

It is polling day tomorrow 05.05.13. I guess most of us by now are sick of the political campaigns and have already made up our minds on who we are voting for. This short piece of writing would therefore probably be my last mention on the subject of our 13th General Election.

Many years ago, I was in a discussion with a former boss of mine about some technical issue at work. He was putting forth an argument about something to which I already agree, but he wanted to say it out anyway.`I know I’m preaching to the converted,’ he told me, `but I like to see you agreeing to it all the same.’

It was the first time I heard the phrase, but preaching to the converted is what most of the politicians are doing, or so it seems to me. You get the feel-good vibes but you do not score too many new points. It is the fence-sitters that you need to swing your way.

A typical trait of the fence-sitter is that he/she does not favour one party… but then the other side doesn’t look too appealing either. So for this rare piece of political opinion, I’d like to touch on the particular angle of why a person would dislike a party. No point talking about the `likes’… there are too many, whichever side we choose, and the reasons are obvious anyway.

It is also not difficult to zoom in on the issues that cause us to dislike (some would say `hate’ is a better word) a political party. From the various FB status updates and subsequent comments that I read on my friends wall from both sides of the divide, I have picked some for objective discussion. They are in no particular order of importance.

The anti-PR crowd

1. Voting for DAP would spell doom for the Malays. DAP is a Chinese racist party. The Chinese can’t be trusted. Once they are in power, the Malays will lose their privileges. Worse still, Islam may cease to be the country’s official religion.

2. PAS will implement Hudud law once they are in power. We will no longer have any entertainment shows. The casino at Genting and all 4-D shops will have to close. The country will be governed by a select group called the syura council. We will descend into a Taliban-like era. Investors will run away.

3. The Pakatan Rakyat alliance won’t last. The component parties don’t have a common ideology. PAS is fighting for Islam. DAP is fighting for racial equality. PKR’s struggles are only for Anwar Ibrahim. They only band together now because of a common enemy. Once in power, they’ll be fighting amongst themselves. The country would be in chaos. There would be no stability.

Of course there are many more issues raised by the opponents of Pakatan Rakyat but the above sample should suffice. Let’s now play the devil’s advocate and think for a bit on why such issues are of concern.

The reasons : 

1. In the minds of many Malays, especially the rural folk, DAP is still a Chinese party, even though they have been trying their best to project themselves as multi-racial. There are still sections of the Malay population who do not trust the Chinese, for whatever reasons. Bitter pill to swallow but still a fact.

2. The spectre of religious extremism is not lost to certain sections of the Chinese populace. PAS has never dropped their ambition of implementing an Islamic state and the actions of some of their members do not portray the image of moderation. Their youth wing have been active in raising protests when overseas entertainers come to hold performances in Malaysia. While PAS is now advocating the welfare state approach, their efforts have yet to convince many non-Muslim citizens.

3. It is not difficult to see that the common objective of the PR alliance is to remove the present government. Once that objective is achieved, many people doubt that the cooperation would last. Of course, PR says that this is untested as they have never been in government before. Try them out for one term, they say, only 5 years… but then there are still many people not willing to take that gamble.

Okay then, let’s jump to the other side of the fence and see some of the views from there…

The anti-BN crowd

1. Barisan Nasional is a corrupt party that is wasting millions of ringgit of public money. They enrich only their cronies and even allow Ministers to use public funds for personal gains. They control the law enforcement agencies and practice selective prosecution. They catch the small fry but let the big sharks get away. They use government facilities for the party campaign process. They control the newspapers and television and say only bad things about the opposition.

2. The Chinese component party MCA is ridiculing Islam but UMNO as the dominant member is not doing anything about it. UMNO is allowing the official religion to be disrespected by its own ally. The BN as a whole, practices politics along racial lines.

3. PM Najib Razak is not a firm leader and is not in full control of his party. He still fears the influence of former premier Tun Mahathir. The Tun has done more than enough damage during his 22 years in power. How can Najib transform the country if old hands still pull the strings in the background?

The reasons :

1. The handling of certain scandals involving Ministers and well-known personalities connected to BN have not been forthright and conclusive. The NFC fiasco was actually first highlighted by the Auditor-General before being pounced upon by PKR. Funds for a project that was meant to increase livestock meat production, were utilised for purchase of luxury properties. Yet the PM can let it slip by. He should have been firm and taken action against Shahrizat. What he only did was let her senatorship run the full term and not renew it. Pretty lame. Even worse, TPM Muhyiddin, who was Agriculture Minister at the time the project was first approved, hardly offered any explanation. For the even bigger PKFZ scandal, 2 former ministers from MCA are facing separate court charges but their trials are exceedingly slow to the extent that they might as well be on holiday. And what about the money spent to rescue Perwaja, which in the end, failed anyway? Don’t even think of asking about Bank Bumiputera.

2. UMNO cannot claim to be the protector of the religion of Islam while ignoring the deplorable way MCA is criticising Hudud. The MCA President has been making this attack on Hudud law as his primary tactic because he is out of ideas. His party is about to become insignificant just like Gerakan. UMNO can even allow MCA to carry full-page newspaper adverts attacking Islam. Shameful.

3. Najib is still beholden to Tun M for manouvering him into the PM position by kicking out Pak Lah. So when Tun M says put the Perkasa leaders as candidates, Najib tries to compromise by just putting Zul Noordin in Shah Alam. Tun M not happy. Che Johan Che Pa mysteriously withdrew from being the nominated BN candidate at Pasir Mas, thus allowing Perkasa supremo Ibrahim Ali to take on a one-on-one fight with Nik Abduh of PAS. Najib tak terkata apa. The old man still wields a lot of power. But the PR leaders and many followers hate the Tun more than Najib himself. Try ask Anwar, Karpal, Kit Siang and Nik Aziz. Many people believe that Mahathir was the one responsible in introducing money-politics within his own party… a disease UMNO leaders, at each annual perhimpunan agung, say they are trying hard to cure. Yeah… right.

So there you have it, a sampling of reasons why people from one side dislike the leaders from the other. For sure, you’ll have many other reasons of your own.

If I'm a politician looking hard to win a seat in parliament, I would focus on trying to address those concerns among the undecided folks known as fence-sitters. They are the ones who would most probably tip things in my favour… especially in a very tightly fought contest such as the one this time. But hey, who am I to to give such advice?

To all friends and unknown enemies, Selamat Mengundi. Jalankan tanggungjawab anda kepada negara.

Barely a full day has yet to pass and I'm already reading in today's Facebook, various opinions and comments on why the results turned out the way it did. These include some nasty and insensible remarks; one party claiming the other has cheated while the other chiding the other for being sore losers who plan to take the issue to the streets in protest. Not to mention quite a few with obvious racial insults. It surprises me sometimes that such remarks come from my friends who, at other periods of the year, are actually nice people.

As I have previously written elsewhere, I am a firm believer that each individual has a right to hold onto his own opinion and express it in any way he wishes. It is the way that opinion is expressed which gives us the judgement of character.

Anyway, I am also quite pleased to read a few very well-written analyses from people of moderation. It gives hope that our country can still be heading in the right direction for a better future.

I share this quote from the writer Amir Muhammad : `That the losers can't accept losing is normal. What's new is that the winners know they didn't really win.'


Anonymous said...

LKS has his Guan Eng as ketua mentri n Dr M has mukriz as MB .Fair n seadil n seimbang n balance.Shukran.


JohorMali said...

Such is the facet of Malaysian society that we do not only have a social divide but division across race and religion.
Politics in Malaysa are not for the faint hearted. Its brutal and ugly to say the least. Try to appease a group will invite unsavoury curses from another.
Anybody who aspire to lead Malaysia must be prepared for the bane of racial and relgious issues heaped upon his or her shoulder.
On hindsight , all of us should admire politicians in the likes of Najib, Lim Kit Siang, Mahathir, Karpal Singh etc for perservering the daily onslaught of curses and critiscm , unlike mere mortals like me who would collapse and disappear into oblivion when slighted even a bit.
As the saying goes, it is easier said than done.
So stay cool and level headed all of us, the armchair critics, ponder and pray that this country will always be safe and sound.

Jehan Bakar said...

I have never been a fence sitter. Have always openly taken sides.

Am not too happy with the GE13 outcome. But Allah have better plans for all of us, I have faith in His qada' and qadar.

Kemenangan bukan HANYA melalui peti undi. Ada cara lain lagi. Allah akan tunjuk.

Anonymous said...

I like the last para comment by Jehan.

Rafiah (fm s'pore)

missHLiza said...

I can't say much as I happily choose to not vote. Mostly due to logistic problem but also because I cannot make my mind who to choose. I don't trust anybody even I know I'll be bombarded with reminders that it's our duty to vote. As a salesperson I do feel like 'talam dua muka' as I have to listen and nod when customers voice out their anger and frustration with current rulers. They do have good reason actually. But I do find things I don't trust too with their choice of possible rulers. To make it worse, my parents are had core government supporters.. so not to be anak derhaka again I nod and listen.
You know I hate politics as it's my nature not to debate , not to criticize. And the worse this GE takes away my hubby from me for almost a month.
I just pray that Malaysia will get Allah's rahmah in some way and believe whatever happened must had happened for a reason. It's just for us to learn and improve. All parties involved.

Oldstock said...

Hi Wawa,

Very sorry for the late response. I was trying to clear my internal system of political stuff after the torrid time of this GE. You've got a point there... it would be interesting to see Mukhriz be a man of his own and move out the shadow of his old man.

Oldstock said...

Sdra JohorMali,

Indeed, politics in Malaysia is not for the faint-hearted. Definitely not for me... but I do fear some of my friends are being too overly emotional about it, especially when race is the underlying issue.

Oldstock said...


You are no fence-sitter, of that I'm sure. And I respect you for the stand that you take. Life is very seldom fair... that is why, if I'm asked to choose, I'll always side with the underdogs.

Oldstock said...

Hi there Rafiah,

Lama dah tak nampak your comment... betul kata Jehan tu :-)

Oldstock said...

Puan Hliza,

Yes, I guess election time is not a pleasant situation for those of us who hate confrontation. But it is something that we cannot avoid. I face it with much vigour because I can truly appreciate who amongst my friends with the skill and tact in putting their views across.

zafi said...

Sorry late comment :D

I have voted in London that day.

Quick comments:

1. Melayu tetap duduk dengan melayu and begitu lah dengan kumpulan2 lain.

2. Informasi been spread sebelum mengundi untuk argue andai salah ejaan, terlebih titik (full stop), etc ---> alasan untuk minta kertas undi baru. Pity pihak embassy nak melayan kerenah anak2 muda yang baru pertama mengundi :)

3. Bersih yang saya rasa tak berapa bersih.

Conclusion: Winner: Tunaikan janji. Work smart to win people's vote.
Loser: Be a good opp because people need you to strengthen the Gov.