In the 13th general election (GE13), Umno-BN suffered a major setback when they lost the popular vote and seven additional parliament seats. The opposition under Pakatan Rakyat was successful in making inroads into some of BN’s strongholds.
About four years later, we see a new political landscape in Malaysia. While PAS leaves Pakatan Rakyat, Umno-BN is complicit to one of the world’s largest money-laundering scandals. 1MDB is not the only high-profiled corruption case which is dragging Umno down.
We have the Sabah Watergate scandal, the Youth and Sports Ministry RM100 million scandal, The Johor Umno corruption scandals which involve a state exco member and another which involves the Youth chief of an Umno division (too many corruption scandals for me to list down).
A trust deficit ensues and Umno-BN’s popularity is at a steady decline. The polls now indicate that Umno is at the 40 percent mark, the lowest it has ever received since independence. Let’s not forget that polling numbers for the government are usually lower than what’s recorded. This is due to voter’s ‘fear’ of revealing their support for the opposition.
For example, prior to GE13, Umno-BN was polling at 65-70 percent. Yet when election came, they only captured 47 percent of the voters. Even though there is a three-way fight, I believe Pakatan Harapan will stand to win especially with the rise of Bersatu under the 3Ms, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Mukhriz Mahathir and Muhyiddin Yassin.
Two key indicators
1) Pakatan Harapan’s continuous focus on people-centric issues.
Despite a bumpy start, Pakatan Harapan is more united than ever. A leadership council has been set up which is led by Dr Mahathir and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. A common agreement has been struck in the creation of a common manifesto, one logo and one name. As we speak, the council is finalising on its leadership lineup.
Some might argue that the opposition is still fragmented and that race/religion will be used heavily to deflect accountability from the government. Fortunately, all major polls show that race and religion are not even in the top five issues for voters. In the poll called ‘What Malaysia wants’, it showed that voters care most about reducing the cost of living. Then comes the issue of corruption, followed by the threat upon our national sovereignty.
Noticed how Pakatan Harapan has been most consistent in fighting for these three issues. That explains the masses who will turn up at all ‘ceramah’ which feature the 3Ms.
Heck, previously no one would have thought that ‘Corruption’ and ‘National Sovereignty’ would make it on the list, yet now these three issues are on the forefront of the political battlefield.
While opposition parties are not free from scandals (Lim Guan Eng, Adam Rosly, PAS ex-top leader, Kelantan logging scandal), they’ve responded to it much better than Umno-BN. Notice how Harapan was quick in distancing themselves from Adam Rosly. The scale of the scandals is also much smaller than the ones perpetrated by Umno-BN.
Let’s also not ignore the elephant in the room which is none other than the father/mother of all scandals, 1MDB, which has made waves all across the world while allegedly implicating the prime minister. Voters are smart enough to make the distinction.
2) A semi-urban/rural swing for Pakatan Harapan.
In GE13, Pakatan Rakyat captured the urban votes, but failed to swing the semi-urban/rural votes. With the inclusion of Bersatu, we see a large shift in Malaysia’s political landscape. The 3Ms are well-known for preserving the interest of the semi-urban/rural Malays.
It’s ironic to see the BN-machinery labelling Dr Mahathir as a Chinese stooge when he was once labelled as a Malay supremacist. The fact that Dr Mahathir is still polling at 67 to 70 percent after almost a year of BN’s assault is indicative of people’s affection for him.
It’s also important to note that in less than eight months, Bersatu has successfully registered more than 200,000 members. The vast majority come from the semi-urban/rural areas. Most come from Kedah and Johor, two states which are keeping Umno alive.
In Pasir Puteh recently, Bersatu launched their ‘Jelajah Semarak’ which gathered more than 2000 people. Dr Mahathir was not even present but the crowd was amazing. In Kota Baru, Bersatu managed to attract more than 8,000 people to their ceramah which features Dr Mahathir.
Large turnouts during non-election time are always a good indicator for success. The large turnouts are in BN’s heartlands (Felda settlements, BN’s strongholds in Johor and Kedah, etc) which have never been done before. YB Tony Pua in a fundraising dinner said that he has never seen such big turnouts in Felda settlements like these before.
In Johor, thousands came out to witness Dr Mahathir speak in Pasig Gudang, MB Khaled Nordin’s stronghold. Ask any of the locals there and they’ll tell you that a gathering like this has never happened before in Johor. Once you are on the ground, you can see the wave moving away from Umno-BN.
BN has called this election the “mother of all elections”. This suggests that it’s a “do-or-die” for BN. It’s high time that all Malaysians unite and fight for a more prosperous and just Malaysia.
Let’s join hands to create history for our beloved Malaysia.
SYED SADDIQ SYED ABDUL RAHMAN is a part-time lecturer at Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia and is Asia’s best debater, winning the United Asia Debate Championship in May 2015.