A crucial by-product of these by-elections is the manner in which national political dynamics will evolve in response to the voting results.
There is a growing perception — if not one much discussed in the public sphere, understandably — that the majority of the votes for Barisan Nasional (BN) in an election will come from the Malay and rural segments of the population, while Pakatan Rakyat (PR) maintains a strong grip on the Chinese and urban segments.
A growing urban/rural political divide may have colourful repercussions for the nation’s political landscape.
Even as it is, a cursory glance at a map of the 2008 general election will show green, red and light blue dominating the urban centres of the nation, and huge swathes of dark blue covering a much larger area of the country.
Should this trend continue in the manner that it has in these last two by-elections, we may enjoy the irony of watching BN become a “Parti Kampung” of sorts, while PR slowly evolves into a “Parti Kota.”
All nations have political divides that run along some lines, and I suppose this particular one is not as bad as some others. At worst though, we may have the kind of urban/rural divide that is a large part of the current Thai crisis.
More worrying however, is a perceived deepening political divide along ethnic lines.
Despite Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s best efforts at “bribery”, the Chinese votes have yet to swing towards BN in any meaningful way whatsoever. It appears that decades of feeling like second-class citizens and the promise of a more just society under PR make for an overwhelming combination.
The trouble begins when politicians and political parties reflect on the by-election results and ponder their futures.
I recall that, in the early aftermath of the by-elections, there were already voices calling out for Umno/BN to stop trying to pander to the Chinese votes, and concentrate instead on their base of Malay votes — perhaps assuming that if they maintained a solid majority of the Malay votes, they can still easily obtain a simple majority in Parliament.
This may not seem particularly palatable, but in terms of pure electoral logic and given the structure of our political system, we cannot expect such reasoning to be dismissed out of hand.
Najib may not be particularly inclined to go down this path, but that may not prevent strong factions within his party from pushing this agenda. Should they succeed, and Umno swings further to the right in response to such electoral realities, who knows what the repercussions may be for the country?
Although my thoughts are still gestating with regards to the long run (enough to fill a book?), in the short run, many have been wondering what Pakatan can do to reverse the Malay voting trend while maintaining their current bases of support.
Speaking as a non-Malay, an idea I had was for Pakatan — and maybe PKR specifically — to come up with something like a “Malay Agenda” of their own.
Yes, it may initially sound like something counter to the line we’ve been taking, but I think fellow non-Malays should adopt an open mind and explore such possibilities.
In order for Pakatan to take over and implement its truly multiracial vision, it may have to compete with one of Umno’s strongest assets: The perception that Umno has Malay interests at heart.
Of course, many Malays — more noticeably in urban areas — realise that this is the furthest thing from Umno’s mind. Nonetheless, Pakatan may need to have a viable alternative to this perception to sway the middle ground outside its traditional bases of support.
A Pakatan/PKR “Malay Agenda” need not be exclusivist and supremacist ala Umno, but could perhaps instead focus on fixing the damage done to the Malay community by Umno, by emphasising integrity, independence and fulfilling the true potential of Malays — something Umno has not only failed to do, but actively worked against in order to maintain its political relevance.
I truly believe that without the rent-seeking, cronyism and endemic corruption Umno has put this country through, the natural diligence and talent of both Malays and Malaysians would have brought us all so much further than where we are today.
The articulation of such a vision would serve to allay fears that Pakatan is not “Malay enough” or that Pakatan is synonymous with the weakening of the Malays, while the details of the vision itself will — when scrutinised — show itself to be perfectly consistent with all Pakatan has said before.
Hopefully, non-Malays will understand the context and need for such an agenda, and recognise its role in bringing all of Malaysia closer to a more just society.
Of course, my attempt to email such suggestions to the relevant people weeks ago has yet to find traction, but I’ve already fleshed it out a bit, so if anyone else out there thinks the idea bears some merit, let’s talk!
Whilst it is easy to brand UMNO as corrupt and therefore needs to be voted out. In reality what needs to be changed is the mindset of the PR politicians themselves. For the past few months, the actions and omissions of the leaders have to a certain woken up the Malays especially the fence-sitters and a quite a large number in the urban areas who were sympathetic towards Anwar and PAS Islamic state.
It does not help when the Penang state govt recklessly demolished Malay stalls but left the Chinese illegal stalls untouched. This had really hurt the feelings of the Malays everywhere. Anwar's liwat case unprecedentedly postponed several times and the exodus of the 28 PKR leaders and thousand of members mostly Malays had these voters now more inclined towards UMNO.
And as you say the racially-biased results of the two by elections had the Malays now really have second thoughts and are suspicious of the true intention of the Chinese leaders. If you looked at their fiery anti-UMNO and anti-DEB policies , speeches and blog articles which were untrue and careless - no holds-barred -, it provided a ready ammunition for UMNO to hit back in the next PRU13.
PAS has made the greatest blunder by associating with DAP. In their Kalimah issue which is sensitive to the Malays in Semenanjung. No matter what they say to justify, PAS is now seen as nothing more as a party which is bankrupt of ideas, their slogans for an Islamic state which previously had garnered Malay support towards the PR are now seen by most Malays as empty vessel.
With UMNO fast gaining the lost support in rural and now in urban areas and the effective Najib in the driving seat , and the Malays in general distrusting the DAP-led PR, I cant see how a PR "Malay agenda " can do the change .
Perhaps what we need is a PR coalition similar like the BN's whose struggles are similar ...i.e the PAS to look after the Malays , DAP after the Chinese and Indians? you need to get an Indian opposition party to look after the Indians .. how about other ethnic groups? That's the problem ....can PR really do it ? Can PR really look after them ...... You will see more bickering and more problems even in the short term . You need to do more brainstorming and more soul -searching ....lots of sacrifice and real sincerity -beyond fiery ceramahs- needs to be shown in order to win the Malays' hearts .