Will GE13 be free and fair?

Fair elections? Hardly, says gregwar, who goes on to describe how the BN has used machinery, money, media and Mahathir to strike out at Pakatan.

Photo credits: uppercaise
Photo credits: uppercaise

Finally, Parliament has been dissolved. The polling day for GE13 is 5 May 2013. It is expected to be a fierce battle between the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), which is determined to hold on to power at all costs, and Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the opposition coalition which feels this is their best chance to wrest power from the incumbents who have been ruling since independence.

The question on everyone one’s lips: Is the GE13 going to be a free and fair election?

Even before nomination day, it has become apparent that it may be free (to a certain extent) but it will not be fair.
Everything seems to be pointing to a campaign in which Umno-BN will be taking unfair advantage of the situation – it being in control of all the government machinery and agencies. It is already disregarding its role as a caretaker government.

In this short piece, I will attempt to look at some of the unsavoury tactics being used by Umno in the election campaign especially the unfair use of media. Media play a very big role in informing voters especially those who until now have not made up their minds.

Let us take a look at the radio and television networks in the country. They are all government-controlled or owned by Umno. They have allowed only a 10-minute slot for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties to explain their polls manifesto over the official media. According to Rais Yatim, the caretaker information, communications and culture minister, 10 minutes is more than enough to showcase the manifesto. PR has rightly refused the offer.

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It is clear the objective of the ruling party is to use its monopoly of the official media to ensure a BN election victory. It wants to make sure that the general public especially rural and Malay voters – will hear only the good side and promises of the BN and to the PR side will be downplayed, ignored or demonised.

Manipulation of the media has been one of the key factors for the BN’s victories in elections over the past 50 years. And we can be sure that this will continue.

The next favourite tactic that is being used by the BN with the assistance of its agent bloggers is the use of sex videos. It appears that BN has a black ops (operations) unit which is tasked to spy on their political rivals in compromising situations or to create CDs to implicate their opponents falsely. Many are saying that this shameful method of character assassination will not work because the rakyat are jaded by this sort of tactic. Worse, the ‘producers’ of such videos have been exposed as people of ill-repute themselves. But be sure that more of such videos will pop up in the coming days as these people will not give up easily.

The next weapon is the use of wild, baseless and defamatory statements and outrageous allegations issued by erstwhile or disgruntled members of the opposition against their former party. There is one prominent personality, once holding a top post in an opposition party as well being a senator, who seems to relish this task. The media seems ready to give him maximum space. Other less prominent ex-members also appear but less frequently. BN is ready to use shady characters including the infamous sister who rose to prominence in the Sodomy 1 trial for their election campaigns.

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Dr Mahathir has assumed a major role in the BN campaign. I am sure readers are aware of his writings in his blog and the interviews in the mainstream media (including radio and television), where he runs down the opposition and makes allegedly seditious remarks without a care. The BN and its cohorts, the enforcement agencies, dare not touch him. Or are they watching his antics gleefully? Even an Umno-owned English daily has joined the action by giving him a three-page slot where he ran down his opponents in the PR. I am sure there is more to come.

Another role that the media are playing to the advantage of the ruling BN is misinformation or twisting the facts to make the PR look bad. News of infighting for seats is splashed prominently in the print media especially the Malay newspapers and radio and television networks. As we approach nomination day, we are getting more and more of such news. For example, recently it was alleged that the Pas deputy spiritual leader had purportedly left the party. But later he denied the rumours.

The social networks and blogs are also playing a big role for both coalitions, but BN-linked groups seem to have taken a very malicious stance in this game. As mentioned earlier, they seem to have taken a bigger role in spreading videos and character assassination.

Concluding this piece, I will add just one more unfair tactic by the BN administration: the blatant use of money to buy votes. Najib, as caretaker PM, has no business handing out donations whilst admitting he is making a political speech and seeking support for the BN in the coming general election. This has been going on for quite some time now with almost every sector of society either getting some handouts or promised more if BN gets reelected. Desperate acts by desperate people.

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gregwar is the pseudoynm of a regular contributor to our Thinking Allowed Online section.

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