A sure-fire win for BN?


Following the death of Bagan Pinang assemblyman Azman Mohammad Noor on Sept 4, Malaysia will go through its ninth by-election since the 2008 General Elections. Considered a “stronghold” for Barisan Nasional (BN), the state seat was won by Azman with a 2,333-vote majority against PAS candidate Ramli Ismail. The seat has 14,192 voters, with a  voter breakdown of 66% Malay, 19.9% Indian, 10.5% Chinese and 3.5% others.

Sizable as the majority was in 2008, however, the margin of victory is a sharp decline from the 4,411-vote majority obtained in the 2004 General Elections – a point that gives Pakatan Rakyat (PR) a glimmer of hope in wresting the seat from BN.

Though many bloggers admit that a win for BN is likely, they are nevertheless keeping a sharp eye on the results of this by-election to gauge BN’s popularity amongst non-Malays, particularly Indians.

In making up almost a fifth of the voter base, Indians play a vital role in the outcome, and given the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple fiasco in Shah Alam – known as “Cow-head Gate” – bloggers see a majority of Indians voting against the ethno-religious policies of Umno.

Going postal for BN

Crucial to the outcome too are 5,000 postal voters, with army personnel making up almost 2,000 votes. “Postal votes could be crucial in Bagan Pinang,” writes Anil Netto. “According to the chart here, Pusasda (Pusat Latihan Asas Tentera Darat) Kem Si Rusa falls under this state assembly seat with close to 2,000 postal voters. In March last year, Harakah reported an alleged irregularity involving a Bagan Pinang postal voter here.”

Richard Loh, blogging for Malaysia For All, has assumed that these 5,000 postal votes are all for Umno, which would see the party retain the seat. “Yes, Umno is now leading by 5,000 votes even though the Election Commission has yet to announce the date of polling for the Bagan Pinang by-election.

“In Malaysia Boleh, we still continue with the postal votes for the police and armed forces and from past election results, over 90% usually goes to BN. Looks like Umno is sure to win this State seat,” Loh writes.

Malaysian Joe, in his prediction, outlines the difficulty PR faces in wresting the seat from BN. “Technically, PR will need to secure 90% of the non-postal votes to secure victory in Bagan Pinang and even that by a very slim margin of within 100+ votes,” he wrote.

Cow-head Gate

Though BN has a big head-start with the postal votes, the influence of Cow-head Gate among Indian voters has The Rembau Times fashioning a scenario in which the incumbent might lose the seat: “Now they (PR) have about 2,800 votes in the bag, assuming 80% of the Chinese and Indians vote PAS. So they have to only secure an additional 2,200+ votes from the Malay voters to win that seat.”

“If Bagan Pinang falls, a doomsday scenario for BN comes into play. I had this in mind a while back, that envisages a one-week time interval where basically BN loses two states under its control and an onslaught of defections, that leads to either martial law or …”

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, also writing in the context of Cow-head Gate fiasco, hopes that BN would lose the Bagan Pinang so that they learn a lesson:

“Let the Bagan Pinang by-election become a valuable lesson to Umno. They must lose the by-election to understand that this country wants to move away from the old ethno-religious politics which is senseless, irresponsible, shameless and violent.”

Subramaniam Bharathy, however has called on the 2,800-odd Indian voters to abstain from voting in the by-election. “We must get all the Indian voters to abstain from voting this time in Bagan Pinang. Both BN and PR is no good for us up to now. Let PR suffer as a result of this. We will make a difference with our votes.

“If PR continues to ignore the significance of this point let them pay a price. If PR thinks it is important that they need the Indian votes, then show it in action and policy. Don’t just talk and make empty promises. We prefer you to Umno, but only if you act and reflect it in your government policies. We can make you the difference – both ways.”

Bharathy’s statement has come under much criticism, including from Cruzeiro, who writes that Bharathy’s racial posturing would only play into the hands of BN.

“Playing up race based sentiments will only invite others to take up a counter challenge,” he writes. “And guess what? The race-based party with the biggest numbers usually wins, in Malaysia that biggest race-based party is Umno who while imploring subservient component party’s to toe the line controls the BN ruling coalition.”

Though this looks to be a straightforward win for BN, the results – especially when one takes into account the racial and religious issues stirred up by the temple fiasco – would be anything but.-The Edge