Blog contact Kok Keong has come up with his take of the results:
While I agree with Khoo’s point about PR needing to build up a strong base in the rural areas in states like Pahang, Trengganu, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Kedah–something that is well known even before yesterday’s election–I think therein lies PR’s dilemma.
What I mean is, for PR to build the rural base, PR members have to be stationed there, meet people there, talked to them there, and be seen there. Their presence has to be felt by folk there. Yesterday’s election showed it won’t work for a candidate to be dropped into an area and expect to win votes by having ceramahs with the rural folk only from nomination day to the eve of polling day. Unless you are Lim Kit Siang.
Many rural folk believe you more if they can see you or even face to face communicate with you before the election campaigning. This is not to say they don’t use the internet and other advanced technologies of communication. But it will take more time for them to rely more on the internet for political information and discourse.
Furthermore, I don’t think many rural folk are so interested in the more abstract issues of rights, fair play and justice, until of course they are directly affected by them. Bread and butter issues are more real, urgent to many of them. I don’t think I am being elitist or snobbish here. I think the rural world needs to be understood more adequately on its own terms and not be seen through urban eyes.
And so, PR members must be seen regularly to station in rural areas to make inroads. Thing is, PR members are typically in their 30s and 40s, and they are professionals or technocrats. I think many of them will not find rural areas attractive to their career and lifestyle. How can they see themselves stationing in these areas?
In this past electioneering, the online news portals carried a good deal of news on basically issues or candidates in the urban areas of Selangor, Penang and Johor. The huge ceramahs PR managed to get were no doubt impressive and made good photos. Again, all these were decidedly urban issues or events and they swept many PR supporters to think they were national issues or events. Hardly any significant coverage of the electioneering in Trengganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Kedah (except for Mukhriz and Mahathir there), Negri Sembilan, Malacca. I am not blaming the news portals for neglecting those areas in their coverage. I see absence of the coverage as a reflection of the overall weakness with PR. True, they had to fight hard to hang on to Selangor and Penang because BN made it all too clear those were still their coveted states. But BN could spend more resources–monetary and manpower, not to mention crooked ways and means–on them knowing they had a strong grip of the rural areas in the other states. But PR just did not have resources, especially the manpower, to counter BN in the hinterland.
It is also rather puzzling why PR would focus on Johor instead of Perak. They knew very well from the beginning they had no chance of taking over Johor from BN whereas Perak was well within their reach. It was good for Lim Kit Siang that he managed to knock out Ghani. But I can’t help but wonder why not focus on Perak instead and let his presence there create a larger impact for PR to make sure they win Perak instead?
With Perak back to BN again, PR’s tremendously solid gains in Selangor and Penang over the 2008 election only further cements it as an urban party. When are they going to get serious with their rural game in order to take over Putrajaya? Can they find their members who are bright and talented professionals or technocrats to commit their presence to the rural areas?