As the dust begins to settle after the 13th General Elections, the blame game has begun.
On the part of the Barisan Nasional, this was a disastrous outing. While they have won back Perak and Kedah, the BN representation in Parliament receded further to 133 seats, with thin majorities notched up for many of those seats. While some of the Indian vote went back Barisan’s way, the Chinese vote was swung decisively against the BN, and urban voters across the board also voted against the ruling coalition. BN hung on, but just barely.
For the Pakatan Rakyat parties, there is a palpable feeling amongst their supporters that “we was robbed”. They won the popular vote for the first time since 1969, with monster majorities especially won in many Chinese-majority seats. But for alleged gerrymandering and the first-past-the-post electoral system, we would have seen a new Government in power. Anwar Ibrahim has seized on this, announcing that the PR would only accept the results of the General Elections once instances of “electoral fraud” have been properly addressed.
Looking across this growing political divide, several observations come to mind:
1. whatever the politicians think, most Malaysians are relieved that this was, on balance, the right result for the country. The BN leadership may well blame a Chinese tsunami for this; and PR politicians may cry foul over the results, but many Malaysians are actually relieved. While the mood for change was quite palpable, PR must admit that they have done precious little to sort out their own ideological differences, or to truly paint a clear picture of what their “ubah” really means. Vilifying the ruling coalition, and promising cheap petrol, free education and other goodies, may be enticing, but the rakyat deserves a much clearer articulation of what a new Malaysian consensus would look like. And the response of the markets on Monday morning, with Bursa Malaysia hitting record highs, is a reflection of the relief among the business community that this was, on balance, the right result: 5 more years for PR to prove that they can form a durable coalition, and for BN to step up and take heed of the rakyat’s sentiments for change.
2. we need reconciliation, not racial finger-pointing. While we all agreed with PM Najib Razak that a new national reconciliation was required, the immediate finger-pointing towards the Chinese community was certainly no help. And if reconciliation is what is needed, having Utusan Malaysian scream “Apa lagi orang Cina mahu?” is not only counter-productive, but may simply serve to stoke up racial tensions which are plain dangerous. When cooler heads prevail, as they should, the BN must realize that the only way to beat a path back to political leadership is to rebuild the BN coalition, and this cannot be done by simply writing off a quarter of your electorate! If anything, the PR has cobbled their own coalition of Chinese and urban voters who are demanding for change, especially in terms of the basic arrangements of affirmative action and greater fairness. We have a new generation of voters, no longer bound to the old consensus of the 1970s, and BN must step up to embrace this new reality. Blaming Chinese voters, or the social media, or “ingratitude”, is counter-productive and downright dangerous.
3. the rakyat wants to just move on; politicians should too. While partisans on both the BN and PR corners seem to be ready to square off to feed their own post-election grievances, most Malaysians just want to get on with their lives. While we can quibble over many issues, the world moves on. We want to know what the new Federal Cabinet will look like, and how the Federal Government will review their policies to take into account voter sentiments from the 13th GE. We want to know who the Mentris Besar will be from both the PR as well as BN states, and we want to see if our politicians will fulfill the promises they made with such abandon during the campaigning season. Most of all, we want politicians to get out of the way so that we can begin to live our lives again in harmony, and make our own decent and honest livings, and we want both BN and PR administrations to help us on our way, rather than obsess about their own narrow politician fortunes.
The questions now on most Malaysians’ mind: can we all move on, now, and stop this blame game?