Yet Another Malaysia Election Analysis

Suddenly the entire blogosphere turned into an election analyst office this morning, providing a diverse amount of views and readings into this election’s results.

So, to avoid repeating all those points, here I’ll draw you to some alternative aspects and muted viewpoints of the elections that matters.

1. Voting is secret

Dear Singaporean friend who incessantly ask me: who did you vote for? Let me remind you that voting in Malaysia is SECRET 😛 I cannot vote in Singapore, but I did read the news about the fuss over serial numbers etc. Yes Malaysian votes have serial numbers too, but they in no way correspond with the serial number on the voter roster (*fingers cross*).

That said, vote rigging is still reported to be in the works. It’s hard to rig ALL the votes, in huge opposition wind like this, the extra “postal votes” and “mysterious ballot boxes” will only be used to rescue key people. We’ll never know where exactly these votes went, some anecdotes from personal friends tells about how when a recount was demanded, new ballot boxes which weren’t suppose to be there was mysteriously “found” and added to the mix.

2. Seats delta larger than Votes delta

We should always look into the history when it makes sense. Here’s a summary of seats and votes since independence (scroll down to List of General Elections in Malaya and Malaysia). Here’s a summary:


This shows the results that’s widely reported, because it matters – each seat is a vote in the parliament to pass legislature. But how about this picture:


Although this view mimics the number of seats won for the parliament, its variance shouldn’t be ignored because of the trending towards the simple majority mark. Simple majority (50%) is the mechanism of which everything is based on in the country. Should the opposition make further advances in upcoming elections, you might start seeing BN still being able to form government due to seat majority, but in actual fact more than half the country would have voted for opposition.

This is no small matter – expect more gerrymandering and malapportionment to happen. And the more than happens, the more entrenched a 2 party system will take hold.

3. Ignoring economic issue for a change

A close economist friend of mine was shocked at the lack of thunder when BN sold the economic story to the country. It seems like everyone suddenly, in an emotional twist when hearing the social plight, forgot that the economy is also important. No doubt that the opposition candidates would have sold the same story, but the emotional vote on social issues dominated, while other bread and butter issues (or kampung issues if you may) like hike in oil prices and inflation really played into the hands of the opposition. It always does (Singapore, brace for 7% GST, 16 ERP gantries, more ex class-C wards and CPF stuff ok?)

To summarize what would otherwise be a long economic discussion, consider the weakening key sources of GDP growth, where the “promise” of the North Corridor Economic Region is casted in doubt (I’m sure it would be Lim Guan Eng‘s top priority now). Penang cannot afford foreigners having a wait-and-see attitude, the alternative countries are not going to stop roping industries over. Funding however typically comes from federal level – the opposition state government will need some in-roads to the federal government to get RM10,000,000,000 for Motorola type deals.

Most interestingly is the point on economic value chain. Like Kulim and Penang, if the economic development policies diverge between states, then it’s hard to harness the wage advantage of poorer states, and develop a complete end to end value chain for a particular industry, such as manufacturing. In fact, I’m more willing to bet Singapore money on IDR now, as BN will still have much control (Johor remains a loyal BN state, maybe because it’s UMNO’s “heart land”, UMNO was founded in JB), and BN might be more willing to play nice with Singapore to demonstrate its commitment to economic development, job creation etc.

Some of the questions to ask:
1. Should the economic fundamental of malaysia be re-cast?
2. What is the political risk of doing business in Malaysia now?
Will defer this to you the expert 🙂

4. They are also Chinese, stupid

The amount of mixed feelings from this elections is enormous. My one entire day home was spent answering SMS, emails, IM, etc. Some wanted to cheer, some wanted to be cheered, but most of them, especially those who have been trailing the efforts the last 2 weeks, were just happy and sad at the same time.

Here’s why, they won and they lost. They, here, refers to the contenders for predominantly Chinese areas, whom themselves are more often than not, Chinese themselves. Here’s the dilemma – you’re brave and you felt that there’s a calling in the country that requires you to act. But given the political climate in the last 5 years, every one chose their own paths. Some of these people chose to work from within, taking a back seat in MCA but continue to influence people to make the right decisions for the people. Others take it to the opposition, openly confronting the UMNO hegemony and MCA’s timidity in confronting UMNO when they go overboard.

Nevertheless, both are good people. You know they are not the type of cronies who needs to be punished in hell. They are sincere, people serving leaders, and yet due to the party landscape they have to be pitted against each other. Therefore, some have to lose. Perhaps it’s a good thing – otherwise we’ll really be doing racial politics here where the competition for the seat relies on a race-based agenda (“You’re Indian, vote Indian and be represented!!!”) which will totally be stupid. But lest we forget, there are still race based agenda to be answered – the Chinese, for example, will die fighting for Chinese education: How can you have someone like Anwar, who have 10 years ago (perhaps while having to side the BN machinery) slam the Chinese, come forward and say that he’ll continue to support 独中 Independent Chinese Schools? Sincerity aside, do you think the Chinese community will just sit back and relax? Similarly Indian temples etc.

Thus the mixed feelings – wanting the rid of the BN machinery, and yet wanting all the help they can get, knowing very well that the opposition still doesn’t hold the key to the government’s coffers. My own primary school is a case in point – being promised sponsorship from the state government before the election as a carrot to help expand and build a new building, the school will now have to make new plans to raise the funds in case the state government couldn’t support – they never made that promise ma…

5. The “si” in “Malaysia”

If you’re too young, let me share some history with you – the “si” in Malaysia is, Singapore, added in during the creation of the country in 1963. When Singapore left, the name was kept unchanged. What this signals is anyone’s guess, but what is symbolizes continues to be of paramount importance. Flip open today’s newspaper (I’ve already read 5 of them by the time I completed this post) and count the number of pages dedicated to Malaysia elections.

And thus the question linger in my head: why so much interest?

As in, Singaporeans here seems to be more eager to talk and discuss Malaysian politics than their own! I don’t remember I had such discussions before, maybe cracking some jokes over 66.6% but that’s about it. But the last few days, I have had even official requests for “Election Analysis” – wahlao I’m not a journalist leh…

Anyway, since I felt that everything that has to be said about the elections are said, I don’t want to repeat them. You can check out Singapore Daily for a good mix of blog posts to supplement your official newspaper reading from both countries. The rest here are my personal feelings about this “phenomena” if you may, that I’m observing.

I felt that Singaporeans should take more time to understand their own “system”. The elections here are a lot more “kampung issue” (see beg. of post) rather than ideological. This Malaysian election signaled yet another small step away from our colonial past, a race based economy to feed the colonial masters, into a somewhat half baked, but yet maturing democracy. Singapore however, has let the only success model thus far limit its ability to continue to mature in the political thinking.

It is WEIRD for a 1st world country to be talking about whether there’s enough to eat during an election. Look, there are livelihoods at stake in Malaysia too, especially the rural population. And it has always worked that BN come give out “progress packages” before the election to fish for votes, going by its own legitimacy. Now however, these are the very people who want back their self-esteem, or to chime it with words of TODAY paper, page 12, story by Derrick A Paulo: “BN’s loss shows Kelantan folk want respect, not handouts”. You know there’s always fishes in the sea, if every 5 years some dude from KL come throw RM100 at you and tell you keep them in power, why should you have to swallow it?

So when a system stipulate that all men should be on their own (your own CPF, your own insurance, etc.) and continues to drive the “we are vulnerable” message, one really have to think hard about why it’s so – is it TRUST? Is it that Singaporeans rather pay to have a good, clean and trusted government and have nothing to eat? Because that way at least whatever is left of them is still theirs without fear, and that all policies are “fair” that way? Rich should earn more because they had more to start with, poor should earn less but that’s fine as long as no one really starve to death, every living organism on this island should work with the aim of money changing hands so that it contributes to the “GDP”, and once done, tapau the “nest egg” and retire elsewhere? It is an unbelievably powerful position that PKR might just stand for – K is Keadilan, means justice, fairness. This is fairness, no?


留得青山在,不怕没柴烧。 Hitting the reset button on your PC can be a good thing if too much malware is running. You’ll still get back Windows, but you give Norton anti-virus a chance to fix things. You can then start your programs again (economy). But if it still fails, buy a new computer (migrate), or reformat (!!!!).

Finally, to the Malaysians residing in Singapore, this is for you:

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4 thoughts on “Yet Another Malaysia Election Analysis”

  1. you’ve made this long post quite funny despite the seriousness of the subject matter… haha

  2. Well, considering that we’re both similar in many ways I guess the piqued interest of Singaporeans in the Malaysia GE can be due to the sentiment that if the political skies can change so drastically in Malaysia, it can too in Singapore. 🙂

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