In the fight for votes, don’t ignore the East Malaysian factor

Dr Mahathir Mohamad must be hitting where it really hurts, judging from the flak he has been getting of late. From the prime minister to anonymous folk, Mahathir has become the target of vilification and aimed projectiles.

Najib Razak seems to make it a point to demonize him as a traitor, a U-turnist (if there’s such a word) and a former dictator. Others in  the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition he leads do the same. Even nobodys seem to take an aim at him as in the case of the Nothing to Hide 2 forum, organised by Armada, the youth faction of the party Mahathir founded, Party Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), where things were thrown at him as he fielded questions from the floor.

If he were no threat to the ruling coalition, why this vitriol against the former prime minister? Unless he is making inroads into Umno’s voter base? PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is said to have set up 145 divisions in the Peninsula. That’s quite commendable. It is also said that more and more Malays are turning up at PPBM’s functions. Indeed, Umno has reasons to feel threatened and to react in the way it is doing now.

Perhaps, Umno is finally coming out of denial and seeing the reality on the ground: that, they are losing Malay support.

And, with Mahathir stating clearly that he won’t go back to Umno, the party is facing the prospect of seeing its support slip away. No wonder, it is zeroing in its attacks on Dr M!

According to Politweet.org, which analyses local political events and trends, in the Peninsula, BN got 3,261,493 Malay votes while PR got 3,165,049 in the 2013 general elections. It was a neck-and-neck race, and it is not surprising that both sides have been fighting to win more Malays to their side.

It must be noted here that BN got the majority of the rural Malay votes (2,407,336) while PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) which leads the opposition won the majority of the urban Malay votes (515,293).

So, the Malay-based parties are now fighting with each other tooth and nail to win more votes. Both sides only need a few more seats to win.

In this scenario, it is very likely that Umno will win by scraping through although that small margin of votes which may put it in the lead appears to be eroding in the face of Mahathir’s PPBM’s assault, and, hence the angry reaction to Dr M.

Umno’s confidence, however, is not in its Malay voter base. It’s in its safe-deposit states of Sabah and Sarawak. Of the 133 seats its won, 35 are from Sabah and Sarawak. PR won 89 seats with nine from East Malaysia. Even if Umno loses a few more parliamentary seats, the coalition it leads, the BN, would still win as long as Sabah and Sarawak continue to give their full support.

On the other hand, if BN gains a few more parliamentary seats in the Peninsula, but it loses, conservatively, about one-third of the East Malaysian seats, it will be done for. The opposition coalition, rebranded now as Pakatan Harapan (PH), will win with a comfortable majority.

I don’t know if East Malaysians realise how they can influence the coming general elections (GE14). Perhaps, the effort should be diverted to East Malaysia to woo their votes.

East Malaysians, mostly rural, have traditionally voted for the BN to ensure that their rice bowls are continuously filled. They need to understand that if they give their support to the BN in the GE14, they will be shooting themselves in their own foot! The next BN government will be so cash-strapped, we will continue to see efforts to get funds from external sources like China and further indebt ourselves, which would translate to fewer benefits to the people.

As things are, I am doubtful if East Malaysians truly understand the role they can play in changing the course of this nation. I don’t know if they are sufficiently politicised to understand national issues and really come to the rescue of their fellow citizens in West Malaysia. If they vote for the nation rather than their rice bowl, BN will lose with certainty.

That, however, will be a miracle. But, I believe in miracles. So, I’ll pray for it!

(Statistics taken from Wikipedia)

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