15 March 2008

The drubbing, the shock and the aftermath - Johan Jaafar

This is an interesting piece by Johan Jaafar,the bias debat Perdana moderator that's worth your thought. Read on guys.....

I REMEMBER the statement made by Tom Brokaw on NBC the night George W. Bush was proclaimed winner of the United States presidential election in 2000: "We just don't have an egg on our face. We have an omelette." TV stations excitedly proclaimed Al Gore's victory while the votes were still being counted in Florida. Bush won by merely 100,000 votes, out of more than 100 million votes cast. Hanging chads or not, Bush had to wait another 36 days before the Supreme Court decided he was the winner.

As I entered the premises of Angkasapuri last Saturday evening, I could feel a different mood at RTM's election operations centre. By then it was already 9pm. Rumours about a number of ministers losing their seats were circulating like wildfire. As early as 9.30pm, there were unconfirmed reports that at least three states had fallen to the opposition. I was hardly beginning to warm up on TV when a piece of paper was passed to me about the defeat of Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, the former minister of information, in Sungai Petani.

I knew it was going to be a long, suspenseful and shocking night. It was indeed a night to remember.

Most of us didn't see it coming. Or perhaps refused to. Little wonder most of us got it wrong. Pundits, political analysts, journalists, even men on the street did not expect such a massive swing to the opposition. Many who stood on opposition tickets were equally surprised with the results. One by one, the Barisan National saw its candidates lose. Bad news came trickling in from all corners of the peninsula. Commentators were in for a rude shock, some made adjustments, others simply sounded irrelevant. It was no ordinary election, in fact it was to be a watershed in Malaysian politics.

We have heard kedai kopi talk that people intended to punish the BN or to teach the coalition a lesson. There were rumours of Chinese and Indian voters abandoning the BN. There were stories of Malays who had decided to "throw away" their votes as a sign of protest. But what happened was beyond anyone's comprehension. The BN lost Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur and failed to wrestle Kelantan from Pas. The truth is, I could never imagine such a thing happening in my life- time. Not the fall of Selangor, Perak and Kuala Lumpur at least.

When results from Johor started to trickle in, I was in for a bigger surprise. Johor is supposed to be the last fortress for Umno and the BN. Their safe haven, if you like. There was only one case of an Umno candidate losing in Johor, in 1990. In 2004, Pas won a state seat for the first time on a technicality. This time, Johor lost six state seats, two to Pas, both in urban areas, Maharani and Sungai Abong. And for the first time, Johor lost a parliamentary seat to an opposition party. What amazed me was on knowing later that Johor registered the highest number of spoilt votes, a staggering 54,164 (28,709 for parliamentary seats and 25,455 for state seats). In fact, this election registered the highest number of spoilt votes, 322,461 in total. Johor accounted for 16.7 per cent of them.

By 11pm, it was difficult to convince even the most bullish analysts that BN could win a simple majority. It did, with 140 parliamentary seats, 59 short of the number of seats it won in 2004. The BN was deprived of the two-thirds majority, normally cited as the winnable lottery. It wasn't the first time the coalition lost a two-thirds majority though. The Alliance won 68 out of 118 parliamentary seats in 1969. In this election, BN secured 63 per cent of the seats in parliament compared with 91 per cent in 2004.

According to Tricia Yeoh of the Centre of Public Policy Studies, Gerakan lost 80 per cent of its parliamentary seats, MIC 67 per cent, MCA 51.6 per cent and Umno 27.5 per cent. Opposition parties won 45 out of 193 parliamentary seats in 1999. This time they won 82 seats. PKR, portrayed as a splinter party, waiting for a slow painful death, won 31 seats to the horror of the BN.

What is alarming to the BN is the number of popular votes they garnered in this election, 51.2 per cent. This is the lowest ever for the BN or Alliance before that. In 1990, the percentage was 53.3. If you do the arithmetic, you'll realise that if 70 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote this time, 51.2 per cent is translated into something like 3.6 million votes.

What went wrong? Everyone worth his or her salt has come out with various reasons for the debacle. The swing, unprecedented as it may seem, wasn't totally expected. There have been complaints that the BN was not listening to the people. BN took things for granted. Some argue they have lost touch with reality. BN paid dearly. It is not just the 1.4 million first-time voters who may have voted against them, their strongest supporters and sympathisers also might have abandoned them. How else could one explain the drubbing they suffered?

Unlike 1999 when there was one particular issue that dominated, this time round, there were just too many bushfires for the BN to put out.

Some credited "the Anwar factor". The truth is, even Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would not have imagined the course of this election's outcome. The people simply did not vote BN the way they did the last 11 elections. There are many lessons to be learnt in this election. The BN must wake up to fight another day.

Yet, there were many instances of those who showed their true character in times of victory and defeat. Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon was the vanquished, yet he was man enough to face the reporters, the people and the consequences like a true gentleman. Others simply were emotional wrecks or, worse, blamed everyone else but themselves for their misfortune.

A few state leaders simply avoided the press, even blaming and scolding them for asking questions, yet they were the ones demanding to be heard and to be reported on when times were good.

They forgot the need for politicians to accept defeat gracefully and victory magnanimously.

cheers.

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