For the BN, nothing to be proud about winning in this way. The means are just as important as the ends.
It was always going to be close, either way. In the end, it was 52:48 in the BN’s favour.
A political economist friend of mine was right when he told me to listen to the Pas campaigner I referred to a number of times in this blog (even though I did get a bit swayed by the large turnout at the PKR ceramah on the eve of polling).
This Pas campaigner was accurate in his prediction of a 54:46 outcome (plus/minus 2 per cent margin of error) in favour of the BN, which he consistently stuck to throughout the campaign and polling day itself. He had campaigned for Pakatan across Hulu Selangor and developed a gut feel for the area, especially the kampungs and Felda settlements. He felt Pakatan could have received around 35 per cent support (“not more than 40 per cent”) in these areas. This seems consistent with a Pas MP who predicted 36 per cent support in these areas.
This was where the election was going to be won or lost. The Pas campaigner observed Najib’s promises and cash to the Felda settlers played a big role in influencing voters and made it difficult for the Pakatan to make much headway. Money talks, it would seem. (What has the Election Commission got go say about this? Its silence is deafening.)
The rural voters were also relentlessly bombarded by propaganda from the mainstream media and they had little access to alternative sources of news, he added. Pakatan has to find a way to overcome the media stranglehold especially in rural and outlying areas.
The Pas campaigner also claimed that hundreds of voters – many of them PKR supporters – had been transferred out of the area.
Pakatan now has to go back to the drawing board and find out what went wrong. Do the people know about its policies? Are these policies relevant to the needs of grassroots and rural communities? What are its specific politicies to improve the lot of farmers, estate workers and kampong dwellers? Is the Pakatan really committed to a minimum wage? What are its policies for affordable housing, food supplies and accessible quality public health care – the issues that matter to most people? Perhaps too much was made of Apco, hand-kissing and university certificates rather than these issues.
For all his progressive views on the Malaysian nation, Zaid was the right man in the wrong area, remarked a veteran political commentator.
For the BN, the Hulu Selangor outcome raises huge questions for its race-based political coalition, now warped by the Perkasa brand of right-wing politics and an overwhelming reliance on Umno to deliver the votes. The blatant money politics was a sign to all Malaysians of a desperation to win at all costs.
Can the BN now claim to represent all ethnic groups, 1Malaysia notwithstanding, given the sharp erosion in support for the MCA? It is the Pakatan that now seems the more multi-ethnic of the two coalitions in its representation, and therein lies its longer-term appeal.
One of the enduring mysteries of the Hulu Selangor by-election is, why did Muhyiddin predict a 6,000 winning majority for the BN when almost everyone knew that was way too optimistic?