Rapprochement tough after BN’s ‘divisive’ campaign, says The Economist

By Clara Chooi
The Malaysian Insider
May 10, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 ― National reconciliation appears a distant dream post-Election 2013 for a country scarred by the “nasty, divisive” electoral campaign led by Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in the rural heartlands, The Economist has said.

The international current affairs magazine observed that Umno, to shore up its base of rural Malay voters, had alienated the Chinese and other communities already fed up with the alleged cronyism and corruption associated with affirmative action policies that favour the country’s largest ethnic group.

“Mr Najib has said he wants to be prime minister for all Malaysians. Sadly, however, he presided over an ugly campaign by his… Umno, the main component of Barisan,” the magazine wrote, referring to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was sworn in for his second term as prime minister after BN emerged victors again for its 13th general election running.

“In the rural Malay heartlands, Umno was as negative, racially divisive and pro-Malay as ever,” it added.

Adding salt to wound, The Economist said blaming BN’s losses on a “Chinese tsunami” had been unwise of Najib as the vote trend had clearly shown a massive swing in votes from the young and rising urban middle class, which cut across racial lines.

“Casting the election in such racial terms is neither wise nor accurate,” the magazine wrote in one article titled “A dangerous result”.

“Despite professing to promote a multi-ethnic Malaysia, Barisan’s election strategy has left the country more divided than ever, both along ethnic lines and between urban and rural areas,” it said in another, titled, “A tawdy victory”.

The Malay language media also has not helped BN, The Economist added, citing Utusan Malaysia’s controversial front page on Wednesday when it splashed the headline, “Apa lagi Cina mahu (What else do the Chinese want?), in what appeared to be an attempt to shape the results of Election 2013 as a Chinese-versus-Malay vote.

Despite the outrage sparked, Najib came to the defence of the Umno-owned daily, earning himself more criticism for using race to characterise the results of Sunday’s polls.

Opposition leaders and analysts disagreed that it had simply been a “Chinese tsunami” that caused BN to bleed more seats this time, but a major swing in the urban and middle-class electorate that saw Malaysia’s urban-rural rift widen.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim blamed widespread fraud and electoral irregularities for denying Pakatan Rakyat (PR) victory, and has kick-started a mammoth movement to prove he has the solid backing of thousands of Malaysians.

A gathering in the Kelana Jaya stadium saw a sea of over 60,000 black-clad Malaysians across all ages and races come together under wet skies to rally behind Anwar and PR and mourn the “death of democracy”.

The Economist said Anwar’s claim was “almost certainly” an exaggeration but admitted that the latter’s allegations, fuelled by those of other civil society leaders like Bersih co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, would only add to the loss of faith in the entire political process of the country.

“His (Anwar’s) claim is almost certainly an exaggeration. Still, the bitterness engendered by the vote will persist.

“National reconciliation, which Mr Najib sees as the way to heal the wounds, looks a way off,” the magazine said.

It added that with BN still emerging the overall winner even after the polls results saw the ruling pact lose the popular vote, Najib now owed it to Malaysians who backed the opposition to investigate the alleged fraud.

“Whether that is true or not, it is certain that the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, has huge inbuilt advantages.

“Gerrymandered constituencies meant that with less than 47 per cent of the popular vote, its worst-ever electoral performance, it still won 60 per cent of the 222 parliamentary seats,” The Economist wrote.

The BN coalition won with a weaker majority last Sunday by taking 133 out of 222 federal seats and ceding an additional seven seats to the federal opposition as compared to the 2008 polls results.

Out of the 89 federal seats won by PR, DAP had the largest share with its win of 38 seats.

BN also lost the popular vote to PR ― the first time since the 1969 election when the long-ruling coalition had contested as the Alliance Party.

In his victory speech after the polls, Najib said the vote trend suggested a need for national reconciliation, noting that it had been a “Chinese tsunami” that caused BN to perform worse than it did in Election 2008.

  1. #1 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 1:09 am

    Even the Economist says rapprochement is tough after BN’s divisive campaign – a divisive campaign carried out under BN’s very own manifesto of 1 Malaysia, which only goes to underscore the fact that what counts is not subscribing to high sounding inclusive manifesto but deeds and actions. Which raises the question so what if to save themselves BN says it is prepared to first endorse Pakatan’s policy framework and manifesto – does it mean it is serious about it? How does a coalition govt make things better and help the cause of “rapprochement”? Who holds the reins of power in such a coalition govt to make sure that the principles committed to (supposedly PR’s policy framework and manifesto approved and adopted by UMNO/BN) are implemented? Are we going to expand the cabinet size by 2 times? Is Najib the PM, Anwar DPM or the inverse order? What about the rest of main politicians in both BN and PR? What kind of idea is this?

  2. #2 by Noble House on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 2:07 am

    Anwar is the People’s Prime Minister. Najib can only be the PM of UMNO. This is for Najib to prove otherwise.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 7:03 am

    AhCheatKor aims 2 b peeM of all rakyat by commanding polis 2 lock up key PR leaders who took part in Kelana Jaya [email protected] rally of “5,000” on 8-5-13, operasi lalang mah, la la la ………..

    Anyway, AhCheatKor has nothing 2 worry abt, just relaks, sit n wait 4 SELF-IMPLOSION of PR, starting with PKR’s infighting of various gangs ……….. at d right time, he just has 2 offer some of them “gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua” 2 entice/seduce them 2 jump 2 d bountiful bouncing bosoms of UmnoB …………. fait accompli 4 2/3 majority n then more gerrymandering through redelineating parliamentary n state constituencies 2 ENSURE ETERNAL power 2 UmnoB

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 7:10 am

    UmnoB hv nothing 2 worry abt holding on eternal power in M’sia

    As long as they control msm, their beloved msm will continue 2 brain wash a small percentage of M’sians of all ethnic grps 2 vote 4 UmnoB

    UmnoB may get 35% of popular votes in future GEs (swamped by various tsunamis) but they know they will hv a simple MAJORITY of seats in d parliament, dis is d beauty here mah

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 7:40 am

    ///National reconciliation, which Mr Najib sees as the way to heal the wounds…///

    Didn’t Najib know that it takes only DAYS to destroy racial harmony but YEARS to heal the wounds?

  6. #6 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Saturday, 11 May 2013 - 10:48 am

    Lets face it. Umno-punya-bn’s GE13 campaign was effectively run by jib and monsterO’mamak.

    But jib’s “gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua” and handout tactics did not have any great impact, not in the cities and urban areas anyway. Some rural voters could be pursuaded but I suspect not a great deal.

    Eventually, it was monsterO’mamak’s campaigning that got umno the narrow victory. MonsterO’mamak tactic was simple and three pronged: (1) frighten the hell out of the people in general with threats of may 13 re-run; (2) turn malays against chinese by blaming uncle kit as the person who started the may13 incident; and (3) phantom and alien voters.

    We must deal with the real monster in umno.

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