By Kee Thuan Chye
Mohd Ali Rustam lost badly in his bid for a vice-presidency at the Umno party elections last weekend. He managed to win only seven votes out of a possible 191. With the new system of electoral colleges, this means he got votes from seven divisions, as each division made up one electoral college.
In terms of number of votes from individual delegates, he obtained 15,294, which works out roughly to only about 10.4 per cent of the total of 146,500. Significantly, the people who voted are Malays, so Ali Rustam can’t blame the Chinese for his loss this time, as he did for his loss at the recent general election (GE13).
Not only is this poetic justice; it is also a vindication of the fact that the outcome of GE13 was not, contrary to what Umno President and Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed, due to a “Chinese tsunami”. Barisan Nasional (BN) did worse at GE13 because other races rejected it, including the Malays.
In Ali Rustam’s case, he stood in the parliamentary constituency of Bukit Katil, which was made up of 53 per cent Malay voters, 41 per cent Chinese and 6 per cent Indian. So for him to blame the Chinese was simply unfair as the majority of the voters were Malays.
For his Umno vice-presidency defeat, whom is he going to blame? The delegates who didn’t vote for him? Because they might have considered that in 2009, he was disqualified from contesting the same position for engaging in money politics? And that last year, he threw a lavish wedding for his son and incurred a hefty food and beverage bill of RM600,000, which prompted investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)?
What, by the way, has been the result of those investigations? Are we likely to get a report from the MACC at all, or will it – like many other investigations of protected species – be kept in the Umno skeleton closet? On the other hand, since Ali Rustam has fallen out of favour, perhaps any protection he enjoyed before may now be terminated?
Poor man. Having to suffer the vagaries of politics and the experience of defeat yet again. Worse, defeat within his own party. And a pathetic defeat at that. With only seven votes out of 191. I think the Chinese must have grouped together, raised millions of ringgit and bought off the other 184 divisions so that they would not vote for him. And that’s how he lost so badly.
Speaking of the new voting system that was being adopted for the first time during these Umno elections, I wonder what is so revolutionary – or, rather, to use the fashionable word, transformational – about it.
Umno leaders make much song and dance about its now allowing 146,500 delegates to vote instead of only 2,500 before this. They say it shows how democratic the party is in allowing more people to decide who will fill the leadership positions. But does it really do that?
It would if every vote counted on its own. But that’s unfortunately not the case. The votes are instead added up within each division and in the end represent only one vote from that division.
So let’s say there are two candidates vying for a particular position, and 1,000 delegates of Division X are voting for candidates A and B. If 600 vote for A and 400 for B, A wins but only scores one vote from Division X.
Now, let’s say from Division Y, which also has 1,000 delegates, 300 vote for A and 700 for B. In this case, B is the winner, but he also wins only one vote. For the overall contest, it doesn’t help B in any way that in terms of individual votes, he would lead with 1,100 in comparison to A’s 900. The individual votes count for nothing.
This means it all hinges on the division. It means the members of the division can still be influenced by the division chief. Worse, giving each division one vote is being unfair to divisions that are big. They get the same one vote as divisions that are small.
So why have the electoral college system? Why not make it one man, one vote instead of one division, one vote? Why not let it truly determine the outcome that the members want, rather than the outcome that could be influenced by the division chiefs?
Besides, which system is more likely to discourage money politics? If every one of the 146,500 votes were to count, wouldn’t it be much harder for candidates to buy even half that number than if it were a matter of just 191 divisions?
In fact, this time round, Mukhriz Mahathir would have secured one of the vice-presidencies if the system had been one man, one vote. He obtained 57,189 individual votes in comparison to the 56,604 Hishammuddin Hussein got. The position, however, went to the latter because he won 100 electoral colleges to Mukhriz’s 91.
That being so, how deserving does Hishammuddin feel about his victory, if he could even call it that at all?
Interestingly, Mukhriz must now know what Pakatan Rakyat feels for having won the popular vote at GE13 but failing to take over the government because they won fewer seats in Parliament.
In any case, now that the Umno elections are over, I wonder whether the intolerable ethnocentric posturing by some candidates during the build-up to it will stop. Or whether we will see a resurgence of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) agitation instead.
With Najib having done nothing to stem the ethnocentric tide and saying nothing to placate the anxieties of non-Malay Malaysians, the prospects of reconciliation and inclusiveness are not bright.
In fact, what he said about GE13 last weekend sounded ominous: “Umno was actually successful in that we managed to win 88 seats in Parliament. Our colleagues did not perform that well, but Umno remains the backbone of Barisan Nasional.”
His rubbing this in nearly six months after GE13, issuing a reminder that the other BN component parties made up mainly of other races didn’t do so well, is to assert the dominance of Umno. He, however, seems to have forgotten that in 2004, Umno won 109 seats on its own, 21 more than its current 88. But of course that’s of no consequence now. He is setting the tone by warning of attitudes and policies to come.
This will be consolidated from December 2 to 7, when the party’s general assembly is held. We can expect at the event big-time grandstanding by one and all, from the supreme leaders to the grassroots representatives. That’s when Ketuanan Melayu could rear its hideous head. And the president might be the first to hold it up.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.