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Thursday, May 10, 2012

AdilanClub: LET'S GET REAL: Will Najib put in electoral reforms or will he CHEAT?

Sulaiman Kamal | 10:42 PM | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Some 250,000 people gathered for the Bersih 3.0 rally in several parts of the capital on April 28, 2012 clamouring for urgent electoral reforms to be carried out before the next general election. The event saw protests in over 80 cities around the world. They were all focused and united for a mutual cause.

Rally was not hijacked

The aftereffects of the rally in Kuala Lumpur were quite melancholic. More than 500 protesters were arrested and scores injured, including policemen and journalists. Regrettably, UMNO and its media are exploiting the aftermath of this event by orchestrating and side tracking the real issue of concern to all Malaysians – the desire for a clean electoral process.

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“The rally was not hijacked by any political party neither was it derailed by any political leaders,” said a medical doctor who took part in the rally.  “The Opposition supported Bersih 3.0 with the same fervour as those Bersih supporters to seek a clean electoral process for the country,” she added.

To rally peacefully is a democratic right of every citizen in the country. The rally would not have turned horrid if the police had restrained from provoking the jovial protestors who were there in good faith.

Opposition felt strongly about this issue

Though Bersih is a non-partisan body advocating for a just cause for the people, those affected most in the election will be the Opposition. For this reason, the Opposition felt strongly about this issue as they are the ones contesting in the elections, not Bersih.

Naturally, the Opposition too has a stake in what Bersih is struggling for.  Thus the overt presence of the Opposition during the rally was a blessing for the people who are striving for justice. With the presence of many Opposition supporters it gave more credence to the rally and a lot more political aura for the occasion.

The pro-UMNO media’s incessant twists that the rally was hijacked by the Opposition are only meant to divert people's attention from the real issues which are the “eight-plus-three” reasonable demands of Bersih 3.0.

The people turned out in droves as they were aware of the fact that the rally was targeting at those in power who are committing electoral cons, fraudulence and playing muddy politics.

Fear of losing in the next general election

The people who were involved in the rally represented a significant number of Malaysians who have as much of a stake and future in the country as every Malaysian does. They were not fun-seekers or rebels but thoughtful citizens who wanted to determine the fate of the country in a democratic way through fair and free elections.

“Is it the fear of losing in the next general election that makes it so difficult for Najib and UMNO to take heed for electoral reforms?” asked a university student who took part in the rally.  “Is Bersih’s demand too much for Najib to chew?”  “Is it because Umno fears tasting defeat in a general election if the electoral process is clean?” he added.

Ostensibly, Najib is dragging his feet on this issue. The people are just demanding for a reform of the country's electoral system and to clean up the electoral rolls before the next general election. Is this too much to ask for from Najib who now wields the central power? Umno seems not to budge and refuses to entertain Bersih’s demand for a free and fair election.

Added to that, Najib uses the “Malay race” as his shield to protect UMNO from losing power, that is “if UMNO loses power the Malays will lose power”.  But the people are mindful that there is no basis for this fear. The political reality today is that the Malays are represented in both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.

Malays will not lose power

It is plain clear that whichever coalition wins the next general election the Malays are well-represented in Malaysian politics. “So why should the Malays worry if Umno fails to make it in the next general election?” asked a young Malay executive who was at the scene of the rally.

The two-party system that the country has is a blessing for the people as both coalitions see the main races in the country well-represented. “The Malays will not lose power but UMNO will,” said a PAS lawmaker from Selangor.

Umno has always been in the political comfort zone for almost five decades. Gerrymandering of constituents has favoured UMNO in most rural areas when urban areas dominated by the Chinese saw big number of electorate for parliamentary seats.

And these urban seats had seen stiff contests mainly involving three parties – DAP, MCA and Gerakan. But the rural turf had also been tough for Umno as they had to politically tango with PAS and PKR - the two other Malay dominant parties.

The 13th general election will certainly see a big battle in all constituencies as the two coalitions are well represented by all races. And this is UMNO’s greatest fear.

Dominance will not be permanent

UMNO’s political dominance was only challenged thrice since the country’s independence - in the 1969, 1999 and the 2008 general elections when the Opposition managed to deny the Alliance (1969) and Barisan Nasional (2008) outright power. The 1999 general election saw UMNO floating solely because of the significant Chinese and Indians votes that favoured Barisan Nasional whilst the Malays turned away in droves to support the Opposition.

The Alliance Party consisting of UMNO, MCA and MIC were badly shaken in 1969 by the people’s sentiments in the historic general election.

Realising that their dominance will not be permanent in a multi-racial Malaysia UMNO decided to form a coalition named the Barisan Nasional (National Front) in 1973. Umno roped in a number of other political parties, including its adversaries, to form this front.

The Opposition was relatively weakened by this move then, leaving only DAP and PAS as strong contenders in the elections that followed after 1969. UMNO in general have never tasted major defeat in the nation’s national elections at the federal level. They had in the process though tasted defeat in Kelantan and Terengganu.

The “mother” of all elections

Another worse scenario for UMNO was in the 2008 general election when they lost power in five states and the Federal Territory (Kuala Lumpur).  Selangor. Penang, Kedah, Perak and Kelantan were won by Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional only managed to secure 1 out of 11 seats in Kuala Lumpur.

Barisan Nasional was terribly shaken in the 2008 general election when they only managed to garner 49 percent of the popular votes.

The 13th general election will see the “mother” of all elections in the country. The Bersih 3.0 rally on 28 April 2012 demanding free and fair elections that brought more than 250 000 protesters to the streets in Kuala Lumpur is a clear signal that the next general election will be hard for UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

Umno had never thought that their dominance in Malaysian politics would one day be crushed by a strong Opposition. This is now becoming a reality. But this not-so-pleasant news cannot be the excuse for UMNO not to heed for electoral reforms before the next general election.

Najib’s averseness to accommodate

Why must UMNO demonise Bersih and the Opposition when it is obvious that the electoral process is not going to be clean for the next general election?  As Najib is adamant and has failed to engage or listen to the people, there is a deep sense of disillusionment and uneasiness among the voters.

This is the voice that will turn against UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

Najib’s averseness to accommodate and clean the electoral process will incur the wrath of the people. The urban voters who are generally educated are aware of the significance of having fair and free elections. But a huge number of rural voters are those who are not yet fully aware of the importance this process. This is the swirl UMNO will exploit to the fullest to sink the Opposition and justify why it should not meet all the demands sought by Bersih.

Of course, their modus operandi is well understood by Malaysians. Their shallow slogan to the rural people is “If UMNO loses, Malay power is gone”.  But would the majority rural Malays buy UMNO’s rhetoric this time around when they see many capable and honest Malays in PAS and PKR who could replace UMNO’s dubious leaders?

Crisis of public confidence

UMNO should be cognisant of the fact that the huge turnout at the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 attracted both the rural and urban population. This indicates that the people across the nation are aware of the crisis of public confidence in the electoral process.

The basic and democratic demands by Bersih can be met by Najib’s government if he has the political will to do so. More's the pity, he has no tenacity to do so for fear of a backlash from those within UMNO who are waiting to topple him.

Public dispiritedness in the electoral process will lead to more anger, dissent and disorder among the people.

“If no changes were made to the existing electoral process as demanded by Bersih and the 13th general election were to proceed, the outcome of the election would be open to challenge,” said a political observer. “This will paint the country negative when it claims to have the ‘best’ democratic system in the world,” he added.

There is definitely a crisis of public confidence in the electoral process that drew a huge crowd at the rally. Hypothetically, if to each who participated in the rally there were 20 other supporters who could not make themselves available on that propitious day this could easily come to more than 6 to 7 million Malaysians who are not happy with UMNO and the present government.

The Opposition has good prospects

This huge number, barring other variables, is significant enough to topple Barisan Nasional in the next general election.

It looks like all the “bribes” to the people given by Najib’s government that have come to billions of ringgit thus far are not going to be turned into votes for UMNO and Barisan Nasional.  The Opposition has a good prospect of toppling the incumbent government.

“When all is well with Selangor and Penang today, what more if Putrajaya were to fall to the Opposition?” said a former UMNO lawmaker.

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