By Mariam Mokhtar | Dec 12, 2011
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the brunt of the wrath of former KGB spy and ex-president Vladimir Putin, when he blamed her for encouraging Russian street protests.
When BN cranks up its dirty tricks, will Clinton risk the fragile relationship of trade and investment with the Malaysian government by telling its people to take to the streets, as she did in Russia?
Premier Putin’s desire to return to power as president next year, with the United Russia party ‘winning’ the elections, reminds us of Umno wanting to prolong its 54 years of power. The parallels between Malaysia and Russia are too many to ignore.
With reports of ballot box-stuffing and ‘carousel voting’ fueling their anger, Russians took to the streets to protest. Carousel voting is when people are driven from polling-station to polling-station to vote time and time again.
If and when the time comes for Malaysians to march, will Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak blame western powers for a conspiracy to overthrow the BN government? Or will he assume full responsibility and wish that he had listened to the demands of the people, to undertake meaningful reforms, tackle corruption and stop wealth being amassed by a coterie of Umno sympathisers?
Members of the Malaysian public and the opposition coalition have exposed several instances of electoral fraud.
In one case, former soldiers admitted that they had been made to mark thousands of postal votes in various general elections. Instead of investigating the allegations, Gen Zulkifeli Mohd Zin of the Armed Forces condemned them for their ‘act of betrayal’.
Manipulation of the postal votes is just the tip of the iceberg. Other revelations included migrant workers being given voting rights in exchange for citizenship; voters who are long dead; false voter rolls; voters who are over 100 years old; and discrepancies in the voter registration details.
If not for the power of the Internet, Malaysians would have gone to the polls thinking that the elections would be conducted fairly.
Umno unable to change
Critics claim that relatively affluent Malaysians had little in comparison with the very poor Tunisians or Egyptians, and that conditions for a Malaysian inspired ‘Arab Spring’ are absent.
The same critics assert that the Russians are more like the Malaysians, in that the liberated (from communist rule) Russians enjoy a comfortable standard of living and would refuse to jeopardise their lifestyle by protesting.
But that didn’t stop Malaysians from taking to the streets last July. Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrongly asserted that Bersih 2.0 was a ‘Malay versus non-Malay’ issue. He was proven wrong when Bersih 2.0 attracted people from all levels of society, many of whom are Malay.
In Russia, the electoral cheating sparked nationwide rallies and prompted calls for the election to be re-run. But in reality, the protests are directly aimed at Putin. In 2008, Putin had been barred for a third term and so he passed the baton on to Dmitry Medvedev.
Despite cultivating a macho image, Putin’s popularity has waned and he is seen as the power behind the throne. Moreover, his party has not managed to tackle corruption or stimulate growth.
Similarly, Umno refuses to accept that not all Malays support it. Neither can it tolerate being irrelevant in today’s world. Umno is seen as big and lumbering, and filled with hardliners and extremists. In contrast, the opposition is viewed as liberal, inclusive and reformist.
The recently Umno general assembly saw a return of Umno’s ‘3R’ strategy of using race, religion and royalty, to undermine the opposition.
There was no mention of tackling corruption, of real policy or reform. There was no talk about jump-starting the economy or of creating jobs.
Instead, Najib warned Malaysians that they could not exercise their right to peaceful protest. How can he hope to convince the rakyat if he only pays lip- service to reform and pushes through two hastily-written Bills on detention without trial, to replace the former controversial Internal Security Act?
Mahathir still pulling strings
BN has become complacent after 54 years of rule. Despite controlling the press and TV stations, arresting dissenters and obstructing the opposition from doing its job, BN lost five states in the last election.
But in GE13, BN must win at all costs. Too much is at stake for a great many people. Even Mahathir risks losing both political and physical freedom.
Mahathir has admitted to irregularities in elections: “I must stress that it is also not as rampant as in other countries where the government gets 90 percent of the vote… here the opposition has even won some states.”
Mahathir is wrong. If elections were truly clean, the opposition would have scored victories in more states.
During Umno canvassing, its supporters are allegedly bus-ed in from villages and paid from RM30-300 to attend rallies. Others are given an all-expenses trip to regional locations like Haadyai, Medan or Langkawi as an inducement to vote.
According to one Kelab Umno member in the UK, he is given GBP100 just to attend an Umno function. Many are disillusioned because “nothing much happens apart from eating”.
One participant commented.” Sometimes, I wonder why I come, but the money does come in handy.”
Umno’s excesses and insecurities have been exposed for all to see. Najib is in a quandary and will find excuses to reject the demands of Bersih 2.0 before GE-13.
The security, livelihood and physical well-being of BN politicians, and those who have received their patronage and protection, appear to depend on one man: Najib.
Not true. The person pulling the strings is Mahathir. So, who would he wish to bring in after GE13?
Over in Russia, Putin is the real power behind the throne. He will probably make Medvedev the scapegoat, for his decreasing popularity.
Similarly, Mahathir will replace Najib.
You can stand idle while the legacy of one man dominates your life and that of your children. Or prepare, as a Malaysian, to take control of your life and vote for change. The opposition is not perfect, but offers the best hope for change.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.