New Mandala GE14 editor Kean Wong has posted his report of election night in KL, ‘the twilight of 1Malaysia, and the dawn of another well underway’
LIVE: Pakatan beats BN to the 100-seat mark per Electoral Commission count. Nothing left to do but watch this space! We’ll take a break from blogging to sleep (it’s past 4am in Canberra) but will be back in several hours’ time with more analysis at https://t.co/6qMvOvxfLe pic.twitter.com/kBvGFRzSpQ
— New Mandala (@newmandala) May 9, 2018
PROF MEREDITH WEISS ON THE WAY FORWARD FOR UMNO AND BN
These results have been merciless to BN—decimating their ranks, and not only the obvious suspects. Rebuilding will mean not just re-establishing a coalition, on whatever premise, but also figuring out who’s left—in a set of parties already definitely tilted toward the elderly end of the spectrum. UMNO in particular will need to parse who’s genuinely lost support in their own right versus merely being collateral damage from the anti-Najib tsunami. In particular, Khairy Jamaluddin and Hishamuddin Hussein were supposed to be the advance guard of a new generation of BN leadership (albeit rivals in that guise), and among very few ‘young’ stars in the UMNO firmament. And now KJ, who’s worked assiduously to cultivate younger ranks in UMNO and clearly aspired himself to the top spot, appears to have conceded. Hishammudin seems to have pulled through, but the slog was enough that rumors had been flying of his loss. (Also out: UMNO’s bright young Shahril Hamdan, MCA Youth’s Chong Woon Sin…) It’s too soon to read much into these results, but the ranks of the ousted suggest, among other lessons, that pedigree may no longer carry the cachet it once did among Malaysian voters; the glories of the father [in-law] may not convey…
The Electoral Commission has just announced official state results, but left us waiting for the declaration of federal seat results. Down at the EC’s website, it’s looking quite positive for Barisan Nasional:
Earlier we blogged about the huge swing towards Pakatan in Johor, long a stronghold of Barisan Nasional. Contributing Editor Kean Wong writes from KL with his thoughts that touch on the Johor result:
The Electoral Commission just announced the turnout was 76% at GE14, significantly down from 5 years ago. So that’s why UMNO Johor branch chiefs and candidates were so worried about turnout, the need to fight on state issues and to distance themselves from ‘toxic’ federal leadership. And helps explain how many senior ministers lost their Johor seats, including Najib’s cousin Hishamuddin Hussein, whose campaign featured his own logos and designs, at expense of usual BN/UMNO branding.
UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin, seen as the great hope for his party, is reported to be in trouble in his seat of Rembau. “The Malaysian people have spoken. And the people’s voice is sacred…” he tweets a short while ago.
Rakyat Malaysia sudah bersuara. Dan suara rakyat adalah keramat. Selamat maju jaya, Malaysia dan terima kasih kepada semua pengundi kerana melaksanakan tanggungjawab kepada negara.
— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) May 9, 2018
Our Contributing Editor for GE14 Kean Wong (twitter: @keanmwong) has a pithy has a short sharp summing up on what’s going on right now:
The PKR folks are looking for Agong [King], and Dr M is preempting Najib & co meeting in NSC in media conference, “a deliberate attempt to delay the official results by not signing form 14”.
ANU’s Amrita Malhi points out the fact that the results we’re all talking about are decidedly unofficial (though not necessarily innacurate, of course). About those official figures—here’s the latest count from Malaysia’s Electoral Commission, which shows Pakatan Harapan in front, with far fewer seats called than in unofficial counts:
Summary of Mahathir Mohamad media conference in Petaling Jaya below. Still awaiting PM Najib Razak’s expected appearance at UMNO HQ in KL to respond to the GE14 results as the time in KL passes midnight.
Dr Mahathir claims that Pakatan Harapan has ‘practically’ clinched 112 seats, accuses Barisan Nasional of deliberate attempt to delay announcement of results
“This isn’t fake news. You can’t take me to court for fake news. They are left far behind. The likelihood is that they would not be forming the government. We believe certain meetings are being held. And we worry what’s the intention of these meetings.
We hope and pray that the people respect law and order.This is very serious.
The time is very late now. By now we would know who’s winning or losing. But there’s a deliberate attempt to delay by not signing the form. I heard there was some meeting. But I don’t know who’s meeting whom but it concerns the results of this election.
It would seem that we have practically achieved that figure of 112. And the figure for BN is very much less than that. There’s no way they can catch up. Unofficially we have captured five states. Penang, selangor, Melaka, Negeri and Johor and kedah. So that’s six.The whole of peninsula is won by PH.
People must know what’s their duty and must do according to what’s right according to constitution. Most importantly, don’t get in the way of announcing the results of election.
I would like to see the King after what’s happened but question is whether he would like to see me. Without releasing the results I can’t go to see the King.
The election commission is not doing their duty and is holding back the result.”
Dr Greg Lopez has been watching returns on the Malay-language Astro Awani network and notices that the tone of coverage is changing:
The tide has turned even in mainstream media.Intensive discussion by panelists on mainstream media on the independence of the Electoral Commission (EC).It clear from the majority of the panelists that the EC is not forthcoming.
Prof Meredith Weiss tells us:
I hope the reports of FRU moving in, et al. are apocryphal—anxieties are running high. But that such rumors seem so credible (and in GE13, as well) signals the same concern as Dr M voiced in his final ceramah, in asking that the police and armed forces be allowed to do their jobs and remain professional and apolitical: change of government can come through elections in an ‘electoral authoritarian’ regime (as political scientists classify Malaysia) … but the incumbent does have other tools at hand, should they choose to use them. (But to be clear, I’m not predicting any such use!)
Kudus to Malaysiakini and other sites for really stepping up their game, both in reporting real-time results (as well as streaming ceramah throughout the campaign) and in preparing for access problems. Undi.info had already been a huge boon to electoral bean-counters—but this GE’s network of online portals has been really helpful. Also, the best way to counter or preclude rumors and misinformation is not misguided ‘fake news’ laws, but simply getting accurate information out there and accessible.
Regarding Nur Jazlan—if I were to pick one candidate, beyond the seemingly invincible Najib himself, who best encapsulated whether 1MDB mattered, it would be he. So yeah, I guess it mattered (along with everything else. Oh, for an exit poll!)
It’s been a massive hour as GE14 results roll in (or don’t—things have perceptibly slowed down) and Mahathir Mohamad holds a dramatic media conference effectively claiming victory for Pakatan Harapan and accusing electoral authorities of trying to conceal the government’s loss.
ANU Emeritus Professor Anthony Milner tells us:
Najib offered the people gifts, Mahathir offered dignity—and huge numbers of Malaysians (including many Malays) are placing morality above greed. Whoever wins, this has been moving.
Unrest outside Ayer Hitam result center
Justin Ong from the Channel News Asia tweeted that unrest happened outside the P148 Ayer Hitam result center. There was a rumour going around that the returning officer refused to sign off the results with the opposition winning.
From Greg Lopez, Murdoch University
The unofficial results that are coming in are totally unexpected. That senior BN leaders are falling in safe seats are shocking.
PH is claiming victory using unofficial results. It is unfortunate that the Election Commission is not trusted by the majority. This only gives PH’s claims more credibility.
Rafizi Ramli, the incumbent MP for Pandan cum vice president of PKR, claimed on Twitter that chief returning officers (ketua tempat mengundi) are refusing to sign the Borang 14, a form to admit all ballot papers from each district polling station. He did not specify any seat.
From Meredith Weiss, State University of New York at Albany
The other legacy of Reformasi: those pushed to activism in those days, as among the ex-activists now winning seats (including as incumbents). While attention regarding Mahathir’s return has focused on his kiss-and-make-up with DAP and PKR party leaders, it’s worth remembering how many especially in PKR got their start in Reformasi and its aftermath (following Anwar, Tian Chua, etc.), in Suaram, DEMA, then-JIM, and other groups. The tectonic shift of late is really pretty stunning, and seeps much deeper than just the dynastic henchfamilies.
We’re hearing these two sites are blocked in Malaysia.
From Amrita Malhi, The Australian National University
Leaders from the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress – two component parties of the Barisan Nasional and central to its claim to be a national, multi-racial coalition – have lost their seats in this election, effectively leaving only UMNO to attempt to hold the Front together. This development is likely to support Pakatan Harapan’s pitch to be the nation’s real national, multi-racial coalition – the better National Front that deserves to replace the ailing Barisan Nasional. This pitch has been an important component of Pakatan’s work since 2008 to develop a new multi-racialism, now supported by a new Malay Party – Bersatu.
Negeri Sembilan Pakatan Harapan has claimed the state victory in Negeri Sembilan. 11 (DAP), 5 (PKR) and 3 (Amanah) = 19 in total which forms the simple majority of 36 seats. Press conference in the previous link.
Bernama: Defence Forces Chief says the claim that tanks had been deployed to Putrajaya is untrue.
Pakatan Harapan Negeri Sembilan is live-streaming a press conference claiming their victory.
Sarawak BN Fixed deposit? NOT ANYMORE!
Sarawak was best known as a stronghold for BN’s government. GE14 has proven otherwise: the PH seems to be claiming many victories in Sarawak.
Official results from EC:
P195 Bandar Kuching: Kelvin Yii (DAP)
P196 Stampin: Chong Jien Ren (DAP)
P205 Saratok: Ali Biju (PKR)
P208 Sarikei: Wong Ling Biu (DAP)
P214 Selangau: Baru Bian (PKR)
P192 Mas Gading: Nogeh Anak Gumbek
P198 Mambong: Willie Mongin (PKR)
P219 Miri: Michael Teo Yu Keng (PKR)
From Amrita Malhi, The Australian National University
Fahmi Fadzil, former adviser to Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter Nurul Izzah, has reportedly won Lembah Pantai, the seat in Kuala Lumpur that Izzah held in 2013 against well-funded and royally-connected UMNO candidate, Raja Nong Chik, by a slim majority. Ironically, the symbolism of Fahmi’s nomination had him appear like a raja – protected by an umbrella carried by an assistant, dressed in baju Melayu, and surrounded by his entourage.
Fahmi Fadzil arrives to nominate as a candidate: Who is the Raja now?
From Meredith Weiss, State University of New York at Albany
Regardless of final outcome, just what we’ve seen thus far essentially mandates a rethink of the BN model: how they maintain at least a premise of multicommunalism (since I think BN leaders do want that) with an all-but-dead MCA and wisp of an MIC, and how they incorporate East Malaysia. Nor does the flirtation with PAS seem to be going their way — though split votes may yet save BN more seats than it costs them.
Najib Razak retained Pekan
According to unofficial result from Bernama, BN leader Najib Razak retained his P085 Pekan seat.
DAP Negeri Sembilan chief Loke Siew Fook claimed confidently on Facebook that Pakatan Harapan is very likely to form government in Negeri Sembilan. If this is confirmed, this will be a shock to UMNO-led BN, who has been in power in the state since independence.
From Meredith Weiss, State University of New York at Albany
We’re definitely seeing the effects of PPBM & Friends’ entry on the PH side (for example, in Kuala Kangsar) — and we’re seeing early wins or leads by candidates who have no loot to offer and no record of having done so; ideas and ideals may really be carrying the day in at least a number of swing seats (for example, in Johor and Perak).
From Amrita Malhi, The Australian National University
Media outlet Malaysiakini is reporting that Pakatan Harapan’s Ahmad Tarmizi Ramli from Amanah has won the previously UMNO-held Perak seat of Kuala Kangsar, defeating Barisan member Mastura Mohd Yazid.
Kuala Kangsar is an important place – playing a historic role in the formation of the Malaysian nation. It is the site of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, an institution founded by former colonial official R. J. Wilkinson to educate and produce a new Malay elite. It has produced a generation of politicians and civil servants including former Prime Minister Tun Razak, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s father, his nephew and Najib’s cousin, Hishamuddin Hussein, and one of Najib’s nemeses, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Kuala Kangsar was also once held by Rafidah Aziz, local-born former UMNO member for this seat, and lately, a campaigner for the opposition Pakatan Harapan. Her open letter to Najib, which she put up on her Facebook page, was a call against the government-led privatisation of Defence Ministry land, some of which she alleged would host the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), an important Barisan election promise and a Chinese-funded project that the opposition has made into a touchstone for Malay Muslim and Malaysian sovereignty, arguing that China’s aim is to use such projects to recolonise Malaysia. The Sungai Besi airport, formerly used by the air force, has also been part of a deal with a Chinese developer, brokered through 1MDB. [Further Reading: One Malaysia, Two Chinas]
Now Kuala Kangsar, a place whose history speaks to the nation and its formation, has fallen to the opposition.
MIC has won one seat so far. MCA President and other senior representatives have been defeated. They are unlikely to reach the number of seats they won in 2013. Is this the end of the Barisan Nasional? MCA is also expected to lose badly. The BN may consist almost solely of UMNO seats.
The swing in Johor is a focus of attention by both the DAP and Bersatu (Muhyiidin’s state). Johor is the 2nd largest seat in terms of amounts of seats. It’s the home of UMNO, where UMNO was formerly established. UMNO has always considered Johor as impregnable. Even in GE13, PH only won 5 seats in Johor. This was better than in previous years then. So if they win 21 seats in Johor, it is a remarkable indication of the swing towards to the opposition. Johor has both Malay-majority seats and racially balanced seats, so a victory here shows the opposition is winning a “Malaysian tsunami” not simply Chinese or even ‘Malay heartlands’.
According to unofficial result from Bernama, MCA President Liow Tiong Lai lost in P89 Bentong to DAP’s Wong Tack. MCA is the biggest Chinese-based party in UMNO-led ruling coalition Barisan Nasional. At New Mandala, Teck Chi Wong wrote that playing the China card is unlikely to save MCA.
Malaysiakini & Sinchew Source: Dr. Subramanian, incumbent health minister cum MIC president defeated by Dr Santhara of PKR. MIC represents the Indian in UMNO-led ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.
According to unofficial result from Bernama, PKR chairman Wan Azizah Wan Ismail won P100 Pandan.
These photos circulating on WhatsApp show military vehicles in Taman Dato Harun in Kuala Lumpur about an hour ago.
Ballots being brought into Kuah in P4 Langkawi, where Pakatan Harapan leader Mahathir Mohamed contests.
Looks like Syed Saddiq has defeated BN Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office in the seat of Muar. DPM Zahid said of Muar “Our candidates are extraordinary. But if you cannot win, then you might as well go jump into the well,”
Looks like Razali Ibrahim might be getting wet tonight.
Syed Saddiq was declared as the opposition’s Minister of Youth if PH win the election. He’s 26 years old.
According to unofficial result from Bernama, UMNO’s Wan Nawawi Wan Ismail won P36 Kuala Terengganu, beating Amanah’s Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah, the incumbent, and PAS’s Ahmad Amzad Mohamed. This indicates the east coast state of Terengganu is likely to remain in the hand of UMNO.
We are hearing reports that voter turnout is at 70–75%.
Tian Chua, the PKR candidate for Batu before he was disqualified, confidently claimed his replacement candidate, Prabakaran, will win the parliamentary seat.
According to unofficial results from Bernama, MCA Vice President Chua Tee Yong lost in P142 Labis to Pakatan Harapan’s Pang Hok Liong. At New Mandala, Teck Chi Wong wrote that playing the China card is unlikely to save MCA.
From Kean Wong
It’s important to point that this GE14, unlike the previous 5 I’ve worked on, has been qualitatively different out in the so-called Malay heartlands, in the Felda kampongs i visited, and small petty traders who strongly identified as both muslim and malay— there was the disconnect of the elites, the royals (eg, the furore that arose with TMJ’s intervention vs PH/drM), and the very modernist working class that’s arisen since reformasi broke that neofeudal belanga
An update from media sources
Source (BERNAMA): BN HAS WON 15 SEATS, PKR 12, WARISAN 1 AND INDEPENDENT 1
Source (Malaysiakini): BN HAS WON 19 SEATS, PKR 14, PAS 0
Source (TV3): Exclusively on Sarawak: Tanjong Manis, Betong, Batang Lupar, Serian all fell to BN. No information on others.
A comic interlude
The Electoral Commission (EC)’s administration of GE14 is being slammed by the opposition and voters alike.
One of our bloggers, a Malaysian student at ANU, tells us:
EC disenfranchising the right of overseas Malaysians to vote in the 14th GE. As of today, some students still have not received their ballot paper yet.
Despite the delay, some students still make effort to send reps to bring all ballot paper back home and get their friends or family member to collect it from the reps at airport.
At New Mandala, Tashny Sukumaran wrote about the efforts of Malaysians abroad to post, fly, and courier their votes back home.
Part 5 of our roundtable discusses the impact of the economy in this election
NM: ‘Cost of living’ has been widely discussed. How important is how voters imagine the economy in determining the result tonight?
Meredith Weiss: Interesting question. The big bogeys of 1MDB, selling off assets to foreign (read: Chinese) investors, and so forth really require that the opposition paint for voters a picture, to help them translate huge numbers into micro-impacts. For instance, 1MDB losses are clearly not the only impetus for the GST, yet campaign rhetoric might give that impression. I do think many voters feel the pinch from rising costs for housing, education, and other necessities. However, given the similarities between PH and BN platforms in terms of what tolls or utility costs each vows to shrink, plus how hard it is to parse the net benefits of the subsidies and discounts each side proffers, I’m not convinced voters selecting on mundane cost-of-living grounds will be able to differentiate decisively between coalitions. So it’s that big-picture visualization that might help to tip the balance: the imagined economy of a Najib-and-Rosmah-free future.
Tricia Yeoh: Indeed, an interesting question. We know that voting is ultimately an emotional matter, and successful politicians appeal to this side of voters. What Tun Dr. Mahathir has done is to conjure up images of the Malaysia he built – it was under his watch that the country became an international economic success in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to our oil discovery and a flourishing manufacturing sector. The country’s prosperity was equally felt and experienced by its people. Fast forward to today, post two major economic crises in the last two decades, amidst a relatively weak economy (growth primarily fuelled by public investment, not private), urban voters are nostalgic over the past and imagine this economic boom can be restored under fresh leadership. However, there is the equal insecurity amongst rural voters where they imagine that economic provisions and handouts by BN they currently enjoy would discontinue under a new government.
Surinderpaul Kaur: I would imagine it will play a major factor, especially with the urban voters as these voters are the most affected and the most critical of the electorate about this issue. When I say urban voters, I do not just mean the middle class educated white-collar voters, but working classes, blue-collar voters too (such as taxi drivers etc) who have seen their cost of living increase over the last 2 years. At the heart of this discontent is the implementation of the GST which is seen to be a bane for most urban voters. This is compounded by the perceived disconnect between the ruling elite and the common man in the street where the cost of living is concerned.
Tom Pepinsky: I think it is very important–but even more important is how voters imagine the other parties responding to economic challenges. For a voter in, say, Johor or Pahang, it is hard to know how they would form expectations about how PH or PAS would help to improve the economy that they face.
Greg Lopez: This is perhaps the most important proximate cause. While concerns of dignity (sanctity of the citizens/people identity) are crucial, it’s the grind of the daily life that acts as the proximate cause. As an example, Malaysia’s Royals, ulama and captains of industries maybe concerned about dignity, but their status in life will make them vote in a particular manner that maybe different from the majority of how ordinary Malaysians would, simply because the majority of Malaysians imagine the economy differently. And certainly, as demonstrated by this robust debate between a government institutional economists and ordinary Malaysians on New Mandala — there is a gulf between what the government says about the Malaysian economy, and what Malaysians feel about the economy.
Part 4 of our GE14 roundtable on political Islam.
NM: What has GE14 campaign told us about the nature of Islamic politics in Malaysia?
Surinderpaul Kaur: That invoking the Islamic argument is still a very effective way to target Malay voters. There is a very strong force behind the “this is the Islamic way” argument and it’s very difficult for Malay-Muslim voters to distance themselves from theological authoritarianism or to shrug it off without feelings of guilt. But at the level of the political parties, I see that this argument has a very utilitarian and functional nature – it serves the interests of the parties to keep the narrative alive.
Greg Lopez: Hew Wai Weng’s piece in NM captures the different hews of political Islam in this election. This, in my view, is the single most important factor that domestic and international observers must be watching. Both BN and PH, and of course Gagagasan Sejahtera (PAS and its allies) have all used Islam (and Malay dignity) as a legitimising framework. The salience of Islam in all three coalitions campaigns suggest that Malaysia is heading towards an era where Islam becomes front and centre of all mainstream political parties/coalitions.
Here’s part 3 of our GE14 roundtable. Six experts on Malaysian politics compare BN and PH narratives.
NM: What has been a feature of the narratives that BN & PH have employed to win over voters?
Greg Lopez: BN essentially talked about its track record (economic prosperity, social stability and a sound coalition) and what the future could hold; but mindful that it had a different message for different constituencies and social groups. PH talked about the challenges Malaysia faced: inequality, the losing of its sovereignty and dignity, and a future where this can be reclaimed. GS talked about the vision of how a proper Islamic state can be brought to Malaysia, which will enhance the welfare of all.
Tricia Yeoh: BN has chosen the narrative of stability and predictability in their campaign, also emphasising the many economic hand-outs it has given out especially to the bottom 40 percent in the form of BR1M (one-off cash handouts). It also repeated a mantra of “Fakta, bukan Auta” (loosely translated as referring to facts and not false news), in attempts to defend the opposition’s accusations over Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged involvement in the scandal-ridden 1MDB case, implying that these are merely baseless accusations. BN also employed racial tones, stating that PH is being led by Chinese-dominant DAP, a fear-mongering tactic to scare off Malays from supporting the opposition.
PH rode strongly on the need for institutional reform to combat corruption and poor governance amongst BN leadership. Throughout the campaign calls to right the wrongs of 1MDB and other mega-scandals (FELDA, Tabung Haji) were repeated. PH also committed to abolishing the GST which has been considered the main cause for the rising cost of living, saying BN has done little to alleviate the lower to middle class economic woes. Finally, PH used the theme of restoring the nation’s former glory and pride in the eyes of the world, since Malaysia is now known as a kleptocracy internationally thanks to Najib Razak.
Meredith Weiss: Both sides emphasize similar plot devices in their narratives: costs of living, leadership, solidarity for a better future. But each puts a different spin on those aspects. For Pakatan Harapan, costs of living are a reason to drop the BN; for the BN, its record of development and promises of more should win the day. While both sides offer as goodies discounts on tolls, taxes, and more, the BN has been far more aggressive in that effort; Pakatan stresses instead repealing the GST above all. In terms of leadership, PH emphasizes corruption in the BN’s top ranks; the BN mocks PH’s marriage-of-convenience (and the extreme age of its would-be PM). And both sides argue for pulling together, across races, for their side’s win — but Pakatan presses Malays to jump on the bandwagon with other Malaysians, while BN pulls out the stops to woo non-Malays (XI Jinping and Jack Ma on billboards?!). Neither side has relied heavily on a coherent ideological line, though PH, with its stress on good governance and democratic turnover, has come closer than BN, which seems to assume a more purely rational voter calculus of weighing short-term payoffs.
Ross Tapsell: I think it is fascinating to see how 1MDB is discussed. Many political party operatives in KL (and international observers) tend to say that 1MDB doesn’t resonate with rural voters – that people can’t comprehend the complexities. Yet when I was travelling around in rural Kedah (including Langkawi where Mahathir is running) when citizens spoke negatively of BN, arguments were usually formulated around Prime Minister Najib and corruption. Yes, sometimes this was framed around ‘GST’ or ‘cost of living’, but the connection between these issues and 1MDB and Najib personally is there, I think. So I think it’s incorrect to say ‘1MDB will play little or no part in the election’. The opposition, especially Mahathir, has been successful in drawing these connections for voters, but citizens sharing material on Facebook has played an important role too. That’s why the government rushed through the ‘Anti-Fake News’ law just prior to the campaign.
This is a continuation of our New Mandala roundtable on GE14. We have six experts on Malaysian politics reflecting on the campaign in the past few weeks.
NM: Has this campaign been different from previous campaigns you have covered?
Tricia Yeoh: This campaign is different in that there has been a lot of uncertainty over voter support – especially amongst the Malay electorate – because of numerous changes in leadership affiliation, the two biggest of which being having Tun Dr. Mahathir switch camps to becoming opposition leader and prime minister-in-waiting, and PAS leaving the coalition to contest on their own. These two factors have split Malay sentiment significantly, proving election analysis even more challenging and unpredictable than usual. While Dr. Mahathir may have swung some voting sentiment amongst Malay-Muslims towards Pakatan Harapan the opposition coalition, this may have been reversed by those who harbour bitterness over his time in power and decide to either spoil their vote or choose the third option of voting the Islamic party PAS. Support is also uncertain, for previously PAS candidates who left to form Amanah (now in Pakatan Harapan), competing for the first time against their former party-mates. In short, the uncertainty has stretched all the way up to polling day, and only the results will shed light on this.
Meredith Weiss: At the time, pretty much every campaign in at least the past 20 years has seemed like THE election: the big chance for a change. (To put it differently, Ini kalilah, sekali lagi.) That said, the timbre of this campaign has been clearly distinctive. There’s been a do-or-die feel to the proceedings, from the initial announcement of a shorter campaign than last time, ending in a bizarre midweek polling date (seemingly only intended to suppress turnout), to Najib’s 11th hour proclamation of tax rebates! and public holidays! and free highway tolls! in his final ceramah on the eve of polling-day. In that speech and others, with his language of “the bigger the win, the better the prize,” he sounded like a carnival barker. Mahathir’s focus in his own final ceramah – which 200,000+ watched via live-streaming at once – on equal pay for women and the like made him and his coalition sound so much more sober and dignified and less desperate, by contrast (though also perhaps less fired-up and ready to splash out on thank-you treats). In a different vein, also distinguishing this campaign has been the symbiotic landscape, of two common-logoed coalitions (plus PAS) competing, rather than the usual mishmash of opposition flags. That development really made the campaign look different.
Tom Pepinsky: (1) the three-cornered fights in most districts and (2) the simple fact that former UMNO stalwarts are now urging all Malaysians to vote PH to “save Malaysia” from the BN. The former make it very hard for any party to develop a simple message (because each has two very different opponents from which they must differentiate themselves).
Ross Tapsell: I was in Malaysia for 2 week trips in November, January, February and April. While interest in the election from Malaysians gradually increased, each time I left thinking ‘there isn’t the excitement that there was in GE13’. It is interesting how quickly momentum has built in this past 11 day campaign. Imagine if Malaysia had a significant election period?
Greg Lopez: It is both same and different. Same, in that BN had made life difficult for the opposition in the usual manner. Different, in that there is a semblance of a genuine two-party (coalition) system. Both BN and PH, but also GS conducted their campaigns (e.g. running candidates throughout the country, a manifesto with policies. Etc.) as mainstream parties/coalitions with the real possibility of governing the country.
As a way to kick off our coverage this evening, we asked six experts of Malaysian studies some questions about GE14.
NM: What has been the most interesting aspect for you in covering this campaign, as a scholar of Malaysian politics?
Meredith Weiss, State University of New York at Albany: Definitely the most interesting aspect for me has been the déjà vu of seeing first Mahathir, then increasingly more of his old UMNO gang, resurrected — and even more fascinating has been to see if so many lifelong anti-BN activists and opposition politicians pins their hopes and affection on Dr M. While I’m not blind to the loyalty Mahathir commands among Malay voters (and not just rural voters, the presumption of whose gullibility and quasi-feudal loyalty all sides have starkly asserted), I remain skeptical about the breadth and depth of common ground between Bersatu and its partners. Seeing these parties work out a platform and set of first-priority promises that really sideline a focus on race (let alone religion) in favor of more concrete, especially macroeconomic, agenda items signals a potential new trend in Malaysian political discourse … and yet I do wonder how much of the devil remains in the details (especially if Bersatu’s late-of-UMNO members end up exiled to the resource-bereft opposition as of May 10).
Tricia Yeoh, IDEAS: The most interesting aspect has been observing the reactions by the incumbent Barisan Nasional government as the days drew nearer to polling day. The Election Commission, known to be an institution partial to the BN, issued a series of unprecedented and arguably incomprehensible rules that only served to show there is some real fear that Barisan’s position is being meaningfully challenged. Chief amongst the announcements were the mid-week polling day and the rule that only pictures of Presidents and Deputy Presidents (or equivalents) and that of candidates contesting in the area are allowed on campaign material.
Greg Lopez, Murdoch University: The civility within which campaigning took place. GE13 saw many skirmishes where BN supporters would disrupt then Pakatan Rakyat’s ‘ceramah’. This time around, it was almost unheard of. Furthermore, the use of damaging videos against the opposition, as was in GE13, was non-existent this election. This perhaps is a low bar, as racism and bigotry was rife in campaigning in GE13, but then again, for many parties, that is the very basis of their existence and survival.
Ross Tapsell, ANU: Malaysia is always fascinating to examine the role of new media in an election campaign. In GE14 the role of big data companies like Invoke; the debate around Mukhriz’s role in hiring Cambridge Analytica, for example. Connected to this, the discourse and material being shared around on Whatsapp is fascinating in thinking about a shifting information society in the region.
Surinderpaul Kaur, Universiti Malaya: The savviness of Malaysians (candidates and voters alike) in using social media. 2008 had fledgling use of the internet, 2013 showed extensive use of it, but in my opinion, 2018 has shown a very extensive and intensive use of social media. In 2013, online media offered a public space for discussions and debates which people relished since the traditional presses in Malaysia do not offer a public space for such conversation. However, in 2018, the use of social media has afforded citizens with the options of both public and private spaces of conversations through platforms such as FB and Whatsapp.
Tom Pepinsky, Cornell University: The mobilization of PPBM and the return of Mahathir and other stalwarts of 1990s politics like Daim Zainuddin. It is very hard to gauge sentiments “on the ground” from afar, but I am convinced that PPBM may indeed capture a significant swath of the Malay vote.
Welcome to the makeshift New Mandala GE14 live blog. We’ve been having server issues over at www.newmandala.org which have prevented us from posting at the live blog page there. Keep this page bookmarked, as this is where we’ll be posting our guest bloggers’ analysis and observations on the GE14 count.
Thanks for your patience and thanks for visiting. Cheers, Liam (editor)