Where would Malaysian Voters cast their vote in the next General Elections?
Elections are coming soon...
The 12th Malaysian Parliament began on April 28th, 2008. This means that, at time of writing, there is less than a year before it is dissolved (April 29th, 2013). In these last few months of Parliament, the Government would surely clear off its legislative and executive agenda from the last elections.
With the hype on who will win in the Malaysian media - new and traditional alike, let us not forget the voters. How will they vote?
A Vote for Continuity?
The Barisan Nasional (BN), or National Front, is a coalition of thirteen (13) political parties dominated by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). Because of that, all Chairman of the coalition is also the UMNO President, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The BN has been ruling the Federation since the Independence of Malaya (31st August 1957) and Formation of Malaysia (16 September 1963). This is made possible because of a number of the local parties of Sabah and Sarawak joining, in addition to having the [historically] three largest Malayan parties coming together.
However, at the state level, the Barisan Nasional is not as consistent. Kelantan, for instance, has been under the rule of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) since 1990. In 2008, it lost its "traditional foothold" of Selangor and Perak.
Perception towards Najib
One factor we cannot deny that would influence the votes would be the changes under Najib Razak. No one can deny that when he took over from Abdullah Hj. Ahmad Badawi, the political climate seemed gloomy for the Barisan.
A series of spats with his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, religious and racial issues manipulated, as well as a sequence of U-turns made Abdullah unpopular among Malaysians. Under his ministry, the Barisan lost its 2/3 majority as well as 5 state governments.
Najib has been quick in ratifying the public perception towards him, UMNO and the Federal Government. Launching a series of populist moves and transformation, there has been a significant change in how things are said and done. The Federal Government once seen as detached is now consulting the people more often.
On the cyber front, Najib has made himself seen as accessible by the people - especially among the younger generation. Having created a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account, he is seen to be more open towards the change. No doubt many people express their anger and frustration on these platforms, but there are those who commend him and encourage him. Some of his ministers maintain their own Facebook accounts. Using these platforms, they do interact with the people. On several occasions, Najib has hosted meet ups and gatherings with his "cyber buddies".
Will Najib's 3 year old ministry continue for another 5 years? Or will it be cut short prematurely when he faces the voters for the first time as Prime Minister?
A Vote for Change?
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is made up of the three largest non-Barisan parties: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Unlike the Barisan Nasional, PR's coalition has no central authority, thus enabling a coalition chairperson. Rather, its leadership comes in the form of a triumvite: the presidents of PKR, DAP and PAS.
Presently, the PR holds 82 seats in the Dewan Rakyat. The leader in the House of Representative, i.e. the Leader of the Opposition, is Mr. Lim Kit Siang, President of the Democratic Action Party.
Diversity in Confederecy
The Pakatan does not have a common ideology: DAP is fundamentally democratic socialist, PAS' platform is Islam and Islamic laws implementation, whereas Parti Keadilan Rakyat is populist. (Admittedly, I cannot place PKR on the political spectrum).
Such diversity may garner support from the different voter spectrum. However, it has been a cause for division. The Shadow Cabinet appointments in the State of Sarawak, for example, saw friction among the local PR. The conflict happened between PKR and DAP.
During the 2010 State Elections, the PKR nominated Baru Bian to become Chief Minister should PR take over the Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly). The outcome saw 3 PKR candidates, including Baru Bian, winning. It's coalition partner, the DAP, won 12 seats.
Another point which may help the Pakatan would be the voters being tired of "old faces". Undeniably, Pakatan Rakyat offers a larger number of "new faces" as candidates.
So, the Pakatan Rakyat is one alternative to the Barisan Nasional. Will there be a Pakatan Rakyat Federal Government? Is Anwar Ibrahim finally becoming Prime Minister?
Independents - Non Aligned Candidates
The Malaysian democratic process allows individuals to stand during elections without being under the banner of any registered party. These candidates are known as independents. They would usually fund their campaigns themselves.
There are many antics when it comes to independents. In Kuala Terengganu, an 89-year old lady offered herself as candidate in the 12th General Elections in 2008.
Generally they barely get 5% of the votes in the constituency. Many have lost their deposits. However, there are exceptions. The current Assembly member for Belaga, for instance, won the seat as an independent after defeating the PRS candidate in the 2011 State Elections.
None - Neither here nor there
There are Malaysian voters who chose not to vote. The result of this was catastrophic for the Barisan Nasional in 2008 and 2011 elections.
In the 2008 General Elections, for example, the core UMNO-Barisan supporters were frustrated with the leadership of the then Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. However, they were not willing to vote for the Pakatan Rakyat. Thus, they opted to not vote at all.
Similarly in the 2011 Sarawak State Elections, the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) suffered the same fate. Many SUPP and Barisan supporters did not come out to vote. Thus, enabling the constant votes for the Opposition to appear more. Nearly all the lost the elections. The biggest casualty was its own President, the then Deputy Chief Minister of the State. Just as UMNO's case in 2008, many SUPP voters did not turn up to vote.
Besides not wanting to vote, the other reason for not voting is the so called detachment from the political system and environment. Another reason also is because there is no one the voter would like to vote for.
Logistical issues come into account. Some voters live far away from their registered constituency. Practically speaking, some sees it as a hassle to drive or fly home just for a day.
The other category of non-voters are those who are eligible to vote, but are not registered. Malaysian law stipulates that a Malaysian citizen must first be registered to be eligible to vote.
So high is the rate that political parties and the Elections Commission are trying to register these people. Regular drives were organised at shopping complexes and malls.
The Vote that Changes or Continues
Will Putrajaya see its new occupants? Or will the same make a comeback? The jury for the 13th General Elections is still out. No matter how confident we want to claim to be, all party leaderships are on their toes.