Stealing the elections: Act One

by Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Centre for Policy Initiatives

Even before the dust has set on the fixing of the polling date, the Barisan Nasional (BN) had already begun the hijacking of the elections. With the apparent connivance of the Election Commission (EC) – the pit bull ensuring BN’s electoral victory for the past 12 general elections – they have imposed a 10-minute slot for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) parties to explain their polls manifesto over the official media.

According to Rais Yatim, the Information, Communications and Culture caretaker minister, the short time offered to PR will be more than enough to showcase their pledges. Although an attempt has been made by the EC at damage control over the government’s ludicrous but at the same time deadly serious intent – it has explained that the opposition had misunderstood the offer which was intended to be serial and not one-time – the objective of the government is clear.

This is to use its monopoly of the official (and much of the unofficial print) media to ensure a BN election victory by seeing to it that the public – especially rural and Malay voters – will hear only the good side and promises of the BN and to downplay, ignore or demonize the PR side.

Quite rightly, the PR has snubbed the offer in response, calling it a “joke” and a mockery of press freedom.

In fact, media manipulation has been one of the cornerstones of the BN’s remarkable record of cheating and trickery in the elections over the past 50 years. So it is not surprising that the BN and its partner in electoral crime, the EC, will want the racket to continue.

And it will continue until the strongest possible stand is made against it.

Although the media in Malaysia does not primarily decide the outcome of elections, its role in influencing the decision-making process of the electorate is crucial and needs to take place on a level playing field. Free and fair access to media should be what our electorate deserves, not media coverage which is saturated by BN propaganda and political advertisement overkill.

What is puzzling for now is the timidity of the opposition response. Although leaders from the opposition pact have maintained that they want equal media access in the mainstream media and television stations controlled by the government (RTM)) or by companies that are closely linked to the BN (the New Straits Times, The Star, Utusan Malaysia, etc) they appear to have forgotten or decided not to draw a line in the sand on this No.1 game changer.

Surely the opposition must be aware that any decision to limit them to anything less than equal time over official media for the elections will make a mockery of the democratic process.

Not only that, this blocking of media access will also hurt – if not – kill the PR’s chances of winning power in Putrajaya. Although PR have rightly rejected the offer, they need to go further and to insist on equal time as a precondition for participation in the elections or else they will boycott it.

Such a stand is not as extreme as it may appear.

PR in allowing themselves to be restricted in national media coverage is akin to trying to compete with the BN in a 100-metre sprint by conceding the archrival a 30-meter head start.

Media restriction that creates a lopsided situation where PR have no way of responding to BN claims and attacks or making their case for being the next government is a deadly handicap, especially since the caretaker minister had earlier told national news agency Bernama that it was “okay” for the BN to use state assets to campaign ahead of the official campaigning period.

The opposition have an important case to make to Malaysia and the world by standing firm and refusing to go to the elections without equal media access. Should they fail to do so, it may be construed that blinded by the scent of power, Pakatan Rakyat have been beguiled or have permitted their arm to be twisted on this important principle.

And should they lose – as is likely to happen if the media access and coverage issue is not redressed – it will be too late for them to complain. The EC will insist it has conducted free and fair elections; the BN will call their opponents sore and perennial losers, and PR will deserve to remain warming the opposition benches.

  1. #1 by Dap man on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 8:06 pm

    Boycott the elections? I tell Dr Lim, BN will then sponsor hundreds of candidates to stand as independents and then proclaim that it won the elections fair and square. It will sponsor Hindraf, Makal Sakti, Parti Cina Malaysia and Kita to contest.
    This time with the handicap Pakatan will defeat BN.

  2. #2 by hiro on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 8:52 pm

    Dr Lim, what nonsense are you spewing? Pakatan “allowing” themselves to be treated unfairly? Nobody wants to be treated unfairly. The opposition, before the advent of social media, have been barking up the same tree for over 5 decades to no avail. Rais has made it clear that nothing will change in this 6th decade. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows BN is playing unfair. Everyone knows Pakatan is handicapped. Bersih demonstrations were in part about lack of press freedom. Yet nothing changes, not even after a Parliamentary Select Committee is set up to deliberate on our sham electoral process. So I ask Dr Lim, what else can you do? You do the smart thing. You fight another way. Since David can’t outmuscle Goliath, it won’t do for him to keep pleading with Goliath to use only 1/10th of his strength. He uses a slingshot.

    Not going to elections is the worse idea I’ve ever heard, unless Dr Lim has become a BN agent. Maybe that’s what Rais was trying to achieve – make Pakatan boycott the elections. Well – that won’t happen. There are other ways of fighting and there is a chance yet for Pakatan to come out of this on top. Just you wait and see. If not this time, there is the next time because UMNO culture isn’t going anywhere and Pakatan can only find more and more supporters.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 8:52 pm

    Boycott will not work. UBAH.TV is a good attempt but needs more advertising.

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 9:49 pm

    How unfair the EC is to PR.

  5. #5 by 1elderly voter on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 10:08 pm

    Asking PR to boycott the elections is not an option. PR may loose whatever advantage gain do far. The momentum may be lost. Bn/umnobaru may take advantage and monopolize parliament. Too many maybes. Too risky. My 2 cents worth: Wait for the result of the GE13. If PR wins, work quickly to change the situation. Use Bn/umnobaru’s laws and cancel all their printing licences. To hell with freedom of the press. After 2 or 3 years when every thing is settle, then bring back the freedom of the press.

    If the unimaginable happens and PR lost, immediately set up think-tanks and brain-storming sessions and think out some solutions. The internet is a very powerful tool and should be make use of. Get the citizens and netizens
    for donations to set up more hot spots for internet connections in the rural areas. With RM50 from each netizen, you can get millions to work with.

    With ahjibbkhor as pm, PR may have 4 to 5 years to work out some thing from the internet. Believe me nowadays senior citizens aged 70 – 80 are very savvy with the computers.

    Believe me, boycotting is not an option.

  6. #6 by john on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 11:05 pm

    Bumno’s record of past wrongdoings stink to heaven. And for that matter C4, MaMak dll crooks records equally all same – STINK ! . No way, they can campaign on such records. For now it’s their tactic to have the MaMak out chanting Mad on Race ( mamak’s trademark) at least to DIVERT attention on real issues. Any other, all tainted also to able to campaign straight. C4 is hiding behind TVs, ceramahs after all the handouts, rhetorics, monkey chants,,, etc.
    Pakatan has to bring these Crooks to answer for their wrongdoings again, stick it to them again, again besides ‘handling’ their sandiwara / spin at same time. Example, ask the MaMak ” how he can so rich, why so diam on Wikipedia posting, his son’s business empire – tell him other Malays ( and other races as well ) sure keen to know also,,, ( in simple words espicially to kampong folks eg. or Pas ,PKR to step up tempo ).
    Avoid get suck into MaMak’s / C4 sandiwara(s).
    Am sure Pakatan has own plans and strategists.
    Just a thought, then. FOR ” A B U ” !

  7. #7 by HJ Angus on Friday, 12 April 2013 - 11:48 pm

    what kind of advice is this?
    Boycott means BN gets 100% of the seats and will be up to their dirty tricks.
    Looks like this think-tank is suffering a melt-down!

  8. #8 by john on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 12:24 am

    Dr.Lim, just a mindful reminder that you’re in Bolehland dealing with the meanest Rascals on Earth. And to boycott is just godsend solution to their present dilemma. They rather not call G13, and where you can have a court proceeding over months, months about a girl being C4 and without any motive established, at the end.
    (Note. Comment #6 posted, meant for preceding write-up about the MaMak ? )

  9. #9 by Noble House on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 4:40 am

    Huh? Boycott the election and allow UMNO/BN a walkover? We have come this far with Malaysians far and wide waited this long to do the one right thing which may not likely to happen again. You honestly believe these UMNO knuckleheads will come to their senses on fair play and decency when they have so much at stakes? Come on, Doc, don’t give us the wrong prescription!

  10. #10 by cseng on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 9:40 am

    Dr lim a respected academician, stays to long his life, out of malaysia, work too long his time with others and not umno.

    We have live long enough, knowing umno enough, if PR boycott, umno win 100%, they do not have shame.

    Boycott only work with gentlemen, they called themshelve evils….

  11. #11 by Jim55 on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 1:14 pm

    Come May 6, 2013 when PR takes over Putrajaya, some key staff in the Star will quit due to lost of face for being MCA-BN’s running dog. Not sure about the Excom members of news media like Utusan Msia and NST. Do they what shame is?

    Regardless of come what may, PR should not waver and fight on, just need to capitalize on the limited resources PR has in hand. Soldier on, pls.

  12. #12 by Jim55 on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 1:16 pm

    My apology, should read “Do they know what shame is?”

  13. #13 by chengho on Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 6:54 pm

    PR is a group riding each other, but deep down suspicious with each other

  14. #14 by good coolie on Sunday, 14 April 2013 - 8:30 am

    All TV is state controlled or subservient to the state. If the opposition goes on TV to give a delayed broadcast of its manifesto for ten minutes, the government can give replies/rebuttals for 10 hours. They can doctor the programme to make opposition politicians look like ugly and sinister dogs. “Take it from me”!

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