Crackdown may eventually backfire on BN, say analysts

by Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
1 April 2015

With more the 150 people arrested or investigated in the last two months mainly over freedom of expression, political analysts say the police crackdown might cripple dissent briefly, but would ultimately backfire on the ruling coalition.

While the arrest and investigations on opposition politicians, activists, academics and media personnel would cow the public for a while and drain the resources of those critical of Putrajaya, such actions would not be effective for long, they told The Malaysian Insider.

“In the short term, it certainly helps the ruling coalition because it has a chilling effect on the public and reduces the ability of the opposition to take advantage of the ongoing internal problems in Umno,” said Ibrahim Suffian, the director of independent pollster Merdeka Center.

“But in the longer run, it will affect public sentiment. These days, you can’t keep a lid on things. It will create problems and affect the legitimacy of the government.”

Dr Lim Teck Ghee, the director of think-tank Centre for Policy Initiatives, said urban and educated voters would see no logic for the arrests, despite the official justifications.

He said most Malaysians would rather have the police concentrate on their crime and security mission rather than take on a political role.

He added that Pakatan Rakyat had the clear advantage from the crackdown, even as its leaders continue to be arrested and remanded for several nights.

“I think it has stiffened the resolve of party supporters and given them more reason to stay the course of getting BN out of power,” said Lim.

He said even if the trend continued, BN would not be able to destroy PR through such means, “unless there is indefinite detention, and even that is a big political risk for BN”.

“All this is doing is providing those arrested with temporary stays for one or several nights and distracting them from their normal life routine for a short while.

“We can see that they have all returned to the political fray as soon as they are out,” said Lim.

Close to 160 people have been investigated over February and March under the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act. They have mostly been opposition politicians and activists, mainly over the #KitaLawan rallies held on March 7 and March 28.

In February, those expressing views against the Federal Court’s verdict to uphold Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy conviction were also hauled up.

Others detained or questioned included lawyers, lecturers and journalists for writing or tweeting critical views.

Dr Mohd Faisal Syam Abdol Hazis, a senior lecturer from the department of Political Studies at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said BN’s previous strategies of trying to be inclusive and conduct reforms had failed, and the ruling coalition now felt that the only way for it to stay in power was to destroy PR.

Before the 2013 general election, Faisal said, BN’s strategy had been to listen to the electorate and introduce inclusive reforms, but that strategy failed due to lack of political will.

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wanted to introduce reform, but he felt insecure and flip-flopped, so when the voters saw this, they knew he was not serious and change could only happen if BN was defeated.

“So BN tried that approach, failed, and will now focus on destroying the opposition. They are slowly going back to Mahathir’s tactics – destroying the opposition by charging them, making them ineligible to contest, draining their resources,” said Faisal, referring to the fourth prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said BN’s scare tactics might have worked during the time of Mahathir, but in the age of social media, Malaysians had moved beyond this and were willing to stand their ground, as proven by the #KitaLawan rallies.

Faisal said PR would only be defeated if the pact failed to prove to the public that they could become a better alternative to BN.

Even in that case, he said, BN would not necessarily triumph as a third coalition may take shape and could oust the ruling coalition in the next general election. – April 1, 2015.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 1 April 2015 - 8:56 am

    It already has backfired on them BUT all UMNO/BN need is for PAS (meaning Hadi’s PAS) to keep doing what it is doing and they can ignore it all..

You must be logged in to post a comment.