Malaysia Elections 2013: Vote for Change?

10 Jun, 2013    ·   3985

Aparupa Bhattacherjee discusses the shortcomings of the ethnicity based parties vis-a-vis the recent elections

The outcome of the 13th General Election (GE) of Malaysia has not turned out to be a happy one. The news of the opposition coalition party, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) cadres being arrested on the charge of sedition has raised many eyebrows.  The question of a free and fair electoral procedure has been repeatedly raised by both the Pakatan Rakyat along with election analysts in Malaysia.  Moreover, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s remarks on a “Chinese Tsunami”, whereby he blamed the Malaysian Chinese for the Barisan Nasional (BN) scoring poorly in the 13th GE, has widened the already existing fissures in Malaysia’s multiethnic society.

This being said, the aftermath of the general elections of 2013 saw two ethnicity-based political parties of the BN scoring equally poorly.  What went wrong with the strategies of these parties:  Malay Chinese Association (MCA) and Malay Indian Congress (MIC) that resulted them wining only seven and four seats respectively? Was it the so called “Chinese Tsunami” or the “Malaysian Tsunami” that resulted PR bagging more popular votes than the BN?

MCA's Downward Spiral 
The results of the 13th GE, made it evident that MCA, which is one of the biggest ethnic Chinese based parties of Malaysia had not learnt their lesson from the disastrous performance in the 2008 General Election. In 2008 election MCA were able to grab only fifteen seats out  of these fifteen seats, four had a majority of Chinese voters    (more than fifty percent age of the voters) – Kampar, Kluang, Gelang Patah and Kulai.

Two more seats, Betong and Labis had marginally more Chinese than Malay voters; the rest of the seats had a majority of Malay voters. So, it seemed that Chinese were slowly withdrawing their support from the party that had come up to represent their interest. Even as an ethnic based party, the Chinese community openly blame the MCA for not being vocal for their cause, although they have formed the government along with other parties as part of the ruling coalition since independence.

The outcome was, MCA capturing only seven seats in 2013 election. The first and foremost reason for the failure of MCA is that, educated Malaysians are not  accepting the old model of ethnicity based politics which has become irrelevant in the maturing democracy.   The second reason lies in the flaws within the MCA. The party has failed to respond to the various allegations of corruption and providing feasible alternatives to tackle the scourge. Moreover many of the candidates of the MCA party have  been allegedly been involved in sex scandals, especially prominent party member’s involvement had   severe effect  on the MCA vote bank. Many political analysts have blamed MCA of not strategically choosing their candidates, which acted as a trump card for Democratic Action Party, who had encased the vulnerability of the MCA candidates.

Malaysian Indians Look for Alternatives
MCA is not alone in the line of failures; MIC has won only four seats. Although if compared to the 2008 GE, where they had bagged three seats, this year they have fared well.  But the reason for their success is the Hindraf (Hindu Right Action Force) and its shift of support towards BN. The Hindraf is a coalition of thirty Hindu non-governmental organisations committed to the preservation of Hindu Community rights and heritage in multiracial Malaysia. Hindraf’s sudden support to the BN had result into the swing of Indian vote back to MIC.

The fact that, the other ethnic Indian candidates contesting from both Democratic Action party and People’s Justice Party (both being the part of opposition coalition) had received full Indian support, makes it clear that Malaysian ethnic Indians are looking for alternatives to represent them. The reasons are very similar to that of MCA, corruption, money politics and lack of adequate effective steps taken for the cause of the community Thus, although initially Hindraf was able to revive some hope within the Malaysian Indian community, but their recent swing towards BN has resulted in the shattering of the popular faith. . This has invited criticism from both the Indian community and MIC who consider them a competitor.

Moving Towards Change
The most important basis of the failure of both these parties is their policies being racial in nature rather being people oriented. BN losing in the major cities like Kuala Lampur, Seremban, Malacca, Selangor, Penang and big towns of Johor, makes it clear that PR has gathered their support from the industrial belt of Malaysia. Thus, there is a altering of vote of preference among the urban and middle class of Malaysia. The reason being, this section of the electorates are better informed and less influenced by the BN friendly media. Moreover unlike the rural Malaysia, these sections of the electorate’s demand do not focus on certain community’s growth but the progress of whole of Malaysia. 

The Prime Minister’s aforementioned remark makes it evident that BN still fail to realise, their failure to gain popular vote is not due to the lack of support of any particular ethnic group but due the craving of change towards betterment among the Malaysians, as a people and as a nation.