GE14 an analysis

Few could have predicted the result of the 14th Malaysian general election. Even fewer could have anticipated that the motley crew of hastily assembled opposition parties would win the federal seat along with 7 state seats. Most analyst were predicting that BN would comfortably retain the status quo, some in their camp even dare call for a 2/3 majority. But fell Barisan Nasional did after 61 continuous years in power. And here’s what I think why it happened.

First and foremost, the opposition parties with their disparate agendas and aspiration, set their differences aside and united in one common goal which was to topple the Najib and the BN government. After the long time ally PAS pulled out of the coalition in 2015, many including me concluded that that would be the end of the opposition and pave the way for another 5 years of BN hegemony. However, thanks to the Tun Dr Mahathir with his newly found party, PPBM, the opposition cooperated to maximize votes. An uphill task in Malaysia’s heavily gerrymandered, first-past-the-post electoral system. Seasoned political parties like DAP & PKR combined forces with newbies PPBM and Amanah to fight headlong against BN and even PAS in many constituents.

Second is the Mahathir factor. Tun Dr. Mahathir now very critical of his protege Najib Razak for his involvement with the 1MDB scandal, threw his weigh behind the opposition and became the glue that held them together. Even at 93 years old, Mahathir is a well-respected statesman and political giant that still command much respect and reverence by many Malaysians, especially the malays and even many UMNO members. Mahathir played a crucial role in influencing the conservative and rural folks, especially those who prospered and benefited from his 22 years rule. Without Mahathir and in extension his PPBM party, the opposition would have their work cut out for them in winning the Felda and Malay heartland votes. Mahathir with his typical straight-talking ways started calling Najib a thief rather than a kleptocrat with struck a chord with the man on the streets and the villagers. More importantly, he helped ordinary conservative and nationalistic oriented Malay-Muslim voters overcome their fear of voting for the opposition. And the way the Najib, BN-led government and mainstream media vilify and badmouth him almost daily, somewhat backfired with the majority of Malaysians.

The third factor is the myriad of critical issues that caused widespread dissatisfaction with Barisan Nasional. The removal of subsidies in late 2013 and the introduction of GST in April 2015 caused runaway inflation and general rise in living cost. Sure they introduced cash handouts in the form of BR1M but even that only benefited a small segment of the population and couldn’t complement the rising price of goods and services. Then there’s the 1MDB scandal. While one could argue that the multi-billion dollar scandal didn’t make much headway in the rural areas, the urban and semi-urban people followed it with much interest and disgust. 1MDB is like a cancer that’s destroying the country from inside out with the degradation and abuse of the judiciary and executive system along with the media and countless lives of others trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The fourth and final factor is the series of actions taken by the BN government and in extension several government agencies that did their bidding for them. After making DAP re-elect their central committee and top leadership, the Registrar of Society (ROS) made life difficult for the Pakatan Harapan coalition and party members in general. The PH registration as a coalition were purposely delayed and denied for various reasons. The PPBM party was even briefly deregistered for a month just weeks before the dissolution of the parliament. In a masterstroke by the PH leadership, they’ve agreed to contest the election under a single banner, the PKR flag thus presenting a unified front against the ruling coalition. It was a difficult yet brave decision by the opposition coalition, especially the DAP which had contested under the rocket flag since their inception. However by contesting under a single flag, the opposition coalition effectively nullified the sabotage by ROS and at the same time neutralize the negative connotation associated with DAP among the conservative Malay-Muslim voters. Add that to the gerrymandering of seats, the fake news law, calling a mid-week election day, an apparent bid to depress voter turnout - all but pushed undecided voters to the brink and brought them out in droves for a huge 82% voters turnout.

One simply cannot say the events leading to May 9, 2018 were contributed by a single person or factor. It was not just because of Mahathir or Anwar but the culmination of the efforts of many groups and individuals who made great sacrifices and suffered much hardship to bring about change. More importantly, it's the willpower and conviction of all Malaysians like you and me who would like to see this country climb out from the depth of despair, towards hope, unity, progress and prosperity.

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