The expected election strategy for both sides in the semi-urban and semi-rural seat of Tenang in the coming by-election will focus on appeal to separate ethnic groups in the constituency and more national issues by the PR. Is there another way to do it-especially one which will bring the politics of the country to more modern, policy oriented and non-racial approach? This is a proposal:
Mixed semi-urban and semi-rural seats are actually the fault lines of Malaysian politics. The differences here are:
1. Too much ethnic politicking doesn’t work here-the 3 major ethnic groups are here-half of Malays,1/3 Chinese and 12% Indians as ethnic `king maker’; BN deploy its local ethnic parties to work on 3 etnic groups separately -using 3 separate messages which may not be consistent-a strategy which is supplemented by allocations announcements by various visiting Federal Ministers; PR try to copy this half way and make up for their lack of ethnic campaigners in the 3 major ethnic groups by raising national issues and big ceramahs;
2. Challenges to policies are many-from urban to rural ones. BN will bring out its `only BN can bring development’ weapons-supplemented by real life demonstration of tarring roads, erecting lamp posts etc. PR will attack on the failures of development/corruption to highlight its higher competence and cleaner administration;
So: is there a `3rd way’ to campaign strategy’? This is a sketch/ABC of 3rd campaign strategy in semi-rural seats:
1.Form `muhibah’ teams comprising all ethnic groups to do campaigning and speaking; try role swaps whenever possible eg Counter slogans like `how can Chinese help Malay’ by having a muhibah team to help some Malay villagers solve their problems; Similarly counter `How to trust a Malay doctor’ by sending Malay medics among Medical teams going to visit the villagers; Highlight this in the campaign to diffuse the ethnic champion/`Malay help Malay’, `Indians help Indians’, `Chinese help Chinese’ ethnic campaigning styles described above; Highlighting ethnic understanding and cooperation will give PR an advantage over BN which harp on ethnic suspicion and disparities; A good type of activity is: organise forum on ethnic understanding on basic issues eg Do Chinese shops keep other ethnic group away as employees? Do all Malays enjoy much of the government hand-outs? Do Indians get profiled by police for crimes? There is also some room for parodying ethnic politicking through theatre, videos etc.
2. Challenge the rural policies of the BN with better rural policies from the PR eg FELDA has been criticised in social sciences for being a non in-situ development that uproot villagers from their original villages; FELDA try to build on economy of scales but lost the potential advantages from weak organisations, corruption and political interference; This will require PR to develop/research rural development policies -which is not its forte; but campaign along this lines will build better policy competitions to improve the rural communities; Without this the campaign will be too urban oriented and give PR an urban image which make it seems out-of-place in such rural constituencies; the image can be damaging in the long run given that heavy weightage -now swift to semi-rural mixed seats, will give advantages to BN; There is no future in an urban-only Opposition party in Malaysia given the prevalent tendency in re-drawing the electoral boundaries to create more mixed seats; DAP & PAS are embodiment of such of a limitation from both end of the rural-urban divide; Knocking off the Bn in such mixed semi-rural seats will spell the end of BN type of ethnic segregation policy as well as `development for supporters’ politics; There are 3000 voters among the 3 plantations here-a good testing ground as any; Any positive lessons from Hulu Selangor should be improved upon here;
3. Propose local solutions to semi-rural constituencies eg better public transports-which can be limited in such constituencies; micro-credits-which may be little known-or limited to BN supporters; better local government services eg clinics, schools, markets through elected Councilors; better access to mobile network and internet for younger and school going folks; Face it:many such semi-rural constituencies will not benefit from most macro policies of any party-so the issues of distribution of government services, improvement in local councils’ delivery, more efficiencies in administration etc will make more impact on such constituencies; BN is addressing it by selective offering of reliefs-not systematic solutions; By proposing local solutions ethnic groups may see another way to meet their livelihood and quality of life demands rather than all the times resort to ethnic appeals and frustrating and uneasy zero-sum games;
These are not campaign solutions proposed for PR alone. BN can do well by adopting to the same so that there may soon develop a bi-partisan acceptance of non-racial politics and policy competition between the 2 coalitions -which will only benefit the voters as what democracratic system is supposed to do! I can’t imagine that such a campaign approach will be embraced by either party wholeheartedly -but let it be said that it is not because of a lack of alternative that the political campaigns in Malaysian elections have to be the ways it had been up to now! If the political campaign styles can be modified the lessons learned from there will also be of great reference and benefits for East Malaysia!
|Fierce battle expected at Tenang|
|With the recent death of Tenang state assembly member Datuk Sulaiman Taha, the stage is set for the country’s 14th by-election since the March 2008 general election, and the first by-election in Johor.
Tenang has always been a stronghold of the Barisan Nasional (BN), and has never fallen into the hands of the opposition. But the impending by-election may see a possible change, with the alternative coalition Pakatan Rakyat posing a real threat to the BN.
Tenang is a mixed constituency. According to the latest voter register in June this year, the number of voters in Tenang has increased to 14,592. The number of voters has only increased by 81 since the 2008 general election, but the number of Malay voters has reduced by 146, while there is an increase of 116 Chinese voters. The number of Indian voters and that of other races has increased by 148. The result of the shift means that, the proportion of Malay voters has dropped to 48.26%, a decrease of 1.4%, while the non-Malay voters have increased to 51.74%, an increase of 1.4%.
During the 2004 general election, the BN won with a majority of 5,517 votes, but the majority dropped sharply during the 2008 general election by 3,025, meaning that the BN only managed to win by a 2,492-vote majority. This means, that the alternative coalition only needs a 1,247-vote majority this time to win the seat.
Tenang is a remote rural village under the jurisdiction of the Segamat district of Johor. A sensational case of a python swallowing a man happened here a few years ago. It is one of the two state constituencies under the Labis constituency, the other being Bekok.
Both the Labis parliamentary constituency and the Bekok state constituency are held by the MCA. The current Labis MP is Chua Tee Yong, the son of MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, who was its former MP.
The incumbent state legislator for Bekok is Tan Kok Hong, who is also a Johor state executive councillor.
The MCA cannot take the Tenang by-election lightly, and must go all out to ensure that the BN wins, by delivering the Chinese votes. The MCA image and Soi Lek’s reputation as party president are both at stake.
The Indian voters are also a vital factor. According to the latest voter register, the number of Indian voters in Tenang is 1,754, accounting for 12.02% of the total number of voters. Although they constitute a minority, they hold the key to victory or defeat for either side.
What can be expected in this by-election which has been called the “weather vane” of Johor voters, will be a fierce battle, as the outcome will be an indicator of whether Johor will remain a strong fortress for the BN in the next general election. – mysinchew.com