Greetings from Ground Zero, three days after the political hurricane that struck a wide swathe all the way from Kedah to Selangor.
This morning, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was sworn in as Penang Chief Minister even as Zakaria Md Deros passed away. (Oh, what good is storing worldly treasures in earthly palaces when you can’t take it with you when you go? I think there is a message from above in there, especially in the timing.) It is a historic day for it is the first time the Opposition is taking over the reins of the Penang state government in nearly 40 years.
Koh Tsu Koon, still gracious in defeat, was present, but BN state assembly members reportedly stayed away. In fact, Koh deserves to be commended for the calm, collected way he has handled this devastating defeat and for facilitating a smooth transition.
Chief Minister Lim pledged to introduce a Freedom of Information Act, ensure open tenders for public projects, work towards the revival of local council elections and get public servants to declare their assets. Penang’s influential civil society groups are expected to make even more recommendations in the weeks ahead.
It remains to be seen whether the BN-controlled federal government will attempt to trim or delay its financial allocations to the state in the months and years ahead. If that happens, the Penang government will have to be even more creative and imaginative in raising funds through, for instance, a review of land reclamation projects.
Let’s wait and see what happens in Perak and Selangor.
Many of us are still struggling to come to terms with the scale of the Opposition’s inroads.
According to my researcher friend, the BN’s share of the popular vote in the peninsula actually dipped below the 50 per cent mark. The BN received just 49.8 per cent of the popular votes cast. For the whole country, the BN bagged 51.5 per cent of votes cast as more than 60 per cent of the residents of Sabah and Sarawak opted for its component parties. On the other hand, more than than 60 per cent of voters in KL and Penang voted for the Opposition’s parliamentary candidates.
He also pointed out some other fascinating statistics:
More than half of the Malaysian population (52 per cent) live in areas where the Opposition triumphed – the five states under Opposition rule plus the Federal Territory of KL, which the Opposition swept as well. These areas accounted for 63 per cent of the total ballots issued.
These areas also account for 47 per cent of the bumiputera population. If only the ethnic Malays are considered, then 57 per cent of the Malay population now live in these Opposition areas. In addition, almost three quarters of Indian Malaysians reside in these areas.
In terms of economic wealth, these states account for 56 per cent of the country’s GDP. (Calculations based on figures obtained from the Mid-term Review of the Eigth Malaysia Plan.)
The Opposition-held areas include three of the wealthiest regions (in terms of per capita income) – KL, Selangor and Penang (though it must be noted that income disparities are wide) – and the two poorest states, Kelantan and Kedah.
Weird result for Mukhriz on SPR website
There is something weird about the Election Commission figures for the Jerlun parliamentary seat, which was won by Mukhriz Mahathir (who is now giving Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi a hard time).
If the Election Commission’s figures are to be believed, the voter turnout was an incredible 99.85 per cent! The ballots issued were 37,242 compared to the electorate size of 37,297.
In contrast, the state seats within the Jerlun area saw a turnout of 81-82 per cent.
Assuming there are still a number of dead voters on the rolls, it is virtually impossible to record 99.85 per cent. The Commission must clarify how this is possible.
These figures are from the Election Commission’s website:
|P.5 – JERLUN|
|P.5 – JERLUN|
|N.3 – KOTA SIPUTEH||19,771||16,126||81.56%||278||495||BN|
|N.4 – AYER HITAM||25,742||21,171||82.24%||352||506||PAS|
Update: Thanks, Frank and Sean, for pointing out that the total electorate for Jerlun should be 45,513 and not 37,297 as stated on the SPR website. This would then give a turnout of 81.8 per cent, which is about right, and not 99.85 per cent.
Just for the record, during the 1969 general election, the Alliance (the predecessor to the BN) lost Penang, Perak and Kelantan while Selangor was dead even at 14-14. If I am not mistaken, the Alliance could only secure 49 per cent of the popular vote.
Here is an article I wrote for Asia Times Online:
Political shift in the industrial heart
By Anil Netto
PENANG – A torrential downpour drenched the northern state of Penang during the late afternoon of Malaysia’s March 8 general election day. Many political analysts had earlier anticipated some waves of democratic change for the area, the country’s only state with an ethnic Chinese majority; few anticipated the political tsunami which actually ensued.
Penang, like many other areas of the country fed up with corruption, discriminatory policies towards minorities, general disillusionment with public institutions and a rising cost of living, was ripe for political change. The combined opposition secured 29 of Penang’s 40-seat assembly, with the Democratic Action Party (DAP) clinching 19 of those parliamentary spots. Full article