If it is not confirmed already the calls by some quarters to dump East Malaysia for Pakatan Rakyat campaign strategy post-Batu Sapi defeat make it unavoidable for various parties to confront the issues if there isn’t already a Penisular centric bias in the PR’s political strategy? What would East Malaysians think of such a `strategy’ if it were true? What could be their possible response to it?
Firstly let’s look at the reasoning for such a `dump the east strategy’: it has been raised that East Malaysian constituencies are by majority rural based-as a urban-led reform moment PR will not do well in the East, except in the few urban seats. On the face of it the claim do sounds true-Sarawak only has less than 1/3 urban/town seats in the legislatures. But it is to be reminded that there are a lot of rural seats which the PR is contesting in Penisular. Then the argument may become: in Penisular there is a PAS which take care of rural seats. There is no equivalent in East Malaysia. This argument is not entirely absolute since political changes often occur at marginal areas-which tend to be at a certain point between the urban-rural divides. This apply both to Penisular as well as in East Malaysia. An effective `dump the East’ strategy may mean sacrificing those in the East Malaysian PR candidates/parties so that they will be left to fend for themselves-which seems to be unfair compared to the support given to candidates in similar rural/urban fault-lines in Penisular. On a wider perspective it is a test of the rural policies of PR-they simply can’t run away from this challenge, even though in practice there are the money politics and`development politics’ that need addressing too.
Another argument is factional politics: PKR central don’t find factionally friendly leadership in Sabah and Sarawak. Eg the main faction in PKR don’t find the leaderships in the 2 Eastern states to be within their orbit. Eg the Eastern states leadership tend to favour Zaid’s more openness relative to Azmin’s `Anwar loyalist’ stance. It can be seen that this is precisely the point where respect for the autonomy of the Eastern states would be put to test. The Eastern states should not be penalised or `dumped’ politically simply due to their geographical/regional locations. In fact in view of the historical agreements in the formation of Malaysia there is a deal in black and white to be honoured-where PKR need to show its commitment or else they will risk facing suspicion/rejection as a `Malaya’ party in the future!
The implications for such a `Dump the East’ strategy are: PKR will pool its resources to fight BN’s strongest fortress in Johor; The fallout for the Eastern states are: it will reinforce the centripetal force among the PKR leaders in the Eastern states!
On the seats calculation part: if PR were to win power from winning Johor it will entail a almost clean-sweep in Penisular ie to win some 3/4 of the seats (to win 112 Parliamentary seats out of 166 in Penisular) to compensate for the seats conceded in East Malaysia(56). The number will be moderated by the extent some urban seats may still be winnable in the Eastern states for PR. If it sounds like a bit crazy- that may be the weakness of such a strategy if it were really the PR’s operating if unannounced policy to dump the Eastern states. It is also to the opposite to the BN’s re-inforce the `fixed deposit’ strategy.
The above-mentioned policy stands out because there is a ready policy alternative where the East-West divide is not treated to isolate/disadvantage the East. Eg this other policy alternative may treat a campaign strategy on where to campaign based on majority votes in previous elections-no matter whether it occurred in the East or the West. Call this a campaign strategy of focusing on the logic of `small-majority-votes-lead-the-change principle’ if you wish. At least this strategy will ensure that, should the wind of change blew the `wrong’ way, the parties concerned won’t be caught losing too big due to wrong allocations of resources to unlikely areas(with too large majority votes).
Whatever it is there should be more discussion on such a strategy option-as it affects not just a party’s political strategy but hold long term implications for more parties in the process. Any short term benefits eg convenience for party campaigners, ease of language, transports etc, for the party campaigners may rebound on them when the East West divide threaten the integrity of the national make-up.
Some anecdotal evidence on the above policy being put into motion: many Sarawakian politicians are complaining of not getting enough support from the party central. In addition there are also many party activists quietly, against all odds, moving to campaign in Johor.