Barisan Nasional may have captured 40 out of the 56 state seats in the Johor state election.
But it was the fractured opposition that allowed the BN to claim victory. It has also raised the hopes of the ‘court cluster’ and their supporters, who are anxious to hasten the next general election in their bid to keep the key players out of the slammer.
Take a look at the popular vote (%):
BN 43.1 (2018 = 40.4)
PH 26.4 + Muda 3.5 = 29.9 (2018 = 56.7)(2018 excluding Bersatu = 41.2)
PN 24.0 (2018 Bersatu = 15.6)
Valid votes cast = 1.39 million (2018 = 1.38 million)
(You can see that, although the voter turnout plunged to about 55%, the valid votes cast actually inched up from 2018 because of some new young voters and previously unregistered voters turning up to vote.)
The figures above suggest that the shameful “Bossku” nonsense played a relatively small part – though it should not be underestimated – in the BN picking up 71% of the state seats. Pakatan Harapan may also have suffered from a drop in its number of supporters, presumably in Singapore, being able or willing to vote.
But it was the fractured opposition – all playing up the same key anti-corruption message – that cost the opposition parties dearly. Seven PKR candidates, four from Amanah, all the Pejuang candidates and the sole PSM candidate lost their deposits!
This was the key factor that allowed the BN to romp to a thumping victory (in the number of seats), without even coming close to securing a simple majority of the popular vote. Instead of putting aside their differences for the greater good (preventing a return of a kleptocracy), the opposition parties handed victory to BN on a silver platter.
Though the popular vote does not matter in our first-past-the-post system, it is an important guide for parties to build electoral strategy. What happened in Johor is that a disunited opposition paved the way for a BN comeback.
That said, the opposition parties kept banging on kleptocracy and returning the people’s mandate – but that did not seem to resonate with the voters.
The fact that so many people did not turn out to vote – 1.2 million voters out of 2.6 million registered voters stayed away – could be because many are getting tired of the politicians’ abstract arguments and reforms. Perhaps voters would rather see concrete proposals with tangible benefits (eg a promise to slash waiting times in government hospitals or provide subsidised tickets for buses and trains) – which would make it easier for them to gauge if the parties live up to their promises.
Others have fallen under Najib Razak’s Bossku spell, with some even preferring to believe he is the victim of slander while ignoring his criminal conviction. Unfortunately, this says a lot about the moral compass of society despite so much emphasis on religion. Others may simply remember the good times of handouts of the past while forgetting the huge amounts lost through corruption.
That said, BN seemed to have a more distinct messaging about stability, in an increasingly uncertain world. And it looks as if even some minority ethnic votes are moving back to parties like the MCA and the MIC. Why, even the MIC won three seats compared to PKR and Muda (one each)!
In the run-up to the coming general election, the opposition parties may want to rethink the wisdom of going it alone if they are to prevent the kleptocrats from recapturing power. They not only need to come together in a strong broad-based alliance; they need to regain the confidence of the voters by coming up with a concrete and believable manifesto and plan of action for say, the first 100 days if they win power. These should cover key issues that are critical to the wellbeing of the people, especially the lower-income group.
It is not too late for them to them to get their act together.
With thanks to the Aliran executive committee for their insights as well