There are a number of role swaps between the parties during the 2 by-elections which are challenging: The EC changed its muted style on vote buying to refute the role swap by PAS when it is the party-instead of BN, who dole out `welfare payments’ to poor Orang Aslis who are also voters. It is encouraging that finally the EC open its eyes and mouth on vote buying when it continue to close its eyes and mouth on BN’s giving out zinc to Batu Sapi’s poor residents-not to mention numerous other instant road building projects and other official allocations! The joke of the day must be the alleged MCA’s Rm100.00 pay-out to voters-which successfully fooled hundreds of supposedly BN faithful to brave hot sun to queue up to collect the money. That the money was not given out still cannot cover up the fact the voters have been `schooled’ to expect BN to give cash hand-outs during elections. Indeed much `allocations’ have been handed out to various chinese associations in Sandakan to woo the voters there. Yet the EC’s retain its inelegant silence-failing to play its role as an impartial refree in a fair competition.
Anyway the role swaps are not encouraging since there are signs that the election culture had taken a turn for the worse rather than the other way round. When both sides resort to vote buying what is there for voters to rely on to make policy-based comparisons? Who will win-the side giving more money-or the side with better policies? Both sides are responsible for such a plunge in the election culture!
Another aspect of the role swap involve the differential coverage to the 2 non-BN parties in Batu Sapi-both in the mainstream and alternative media. A better quantitative comparison would produce a clearer picture if fair coverage to all candidates/parties mean anything to the various media who champion fair media coverage in elections. The media coverage can also be evaluated on whether the notorious `penisular centric’ bias still has a life of its own.
As usual the creative reporting by the BN controlled media rare its ugly head-and Utusan Melayu will have to eat humble pie for creatively accused DAP’s chairman of branding UMNO as a `kafir’ party-an accusation which PAS used to throw at UMNO. The reporter concerned reportedly had owed up to his `mistake’ after the damage had been done on the polling eve. It is not sure an apology on the polling day will provide sufficient corrective to the damage done in the Malay/muslims areas.