There are many factors that come into play in any election-especially when there are actually 222 Parliamentary elections and 500+ state elections combined in a 1-day poll like the 13th General Elections in Malaysia! So many predictions based on single factor are suspect. One such optimistic prediction goes like this: every year there are close to 500 000 new voters adding to the electoral roll. Thus by end of 2011 safely there are 1.5mil new voters who will be voting in 13thGE assuming the elections will be called then-which is the current hot speculation. Now in 2008 BN won 4.1mil votes while PR 3.8mil. If the younger new voters favour PR by a ratio of 2:1 among the new voters PR will win BN by 4.8mil votes vs 4.6mil! Now the complications: due to the rural bias in the electoral boundaries (see previous post in this blog) it matters less the number of voters won by PR than where the voters are located! if the additional voters come from urban areas the additional seats won for PR will be minimal-it will simply be wasted by pushing the margins of victories for Opposition to new heights. Even more harshly PR may win 55% of the popular votes-yet may fail to form the new federal government-if the new votes are concentrated in urban seats only! Thus the crucial factor is more likely to be what happen to the semi-rural marginal seats. If the new voters are won in these seats for PR then the victory is assured. And to be exact if the new votes come from die hard BN seats it will only contribute to slashing BN’s majorities in these strongholds-nothing more!
The morning after GE13
AUG 1 — Too close to call. That will likely be the prognosis of the political pundits a few days before Malaysia’s 13th general election which has to be held by 2013 at the latest. In 2008, the Barisan Nasional (BN) received just over 4.1 million votes while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat obtained about 3.8 million votes. In terms of parliamentary seats, BN won 140 seats whereas PR obtained 82 seats.
If the status quo remains, then the only factor that will change the results will be the new first-time voters casting their ballots. On this front the opposition seems to have the edge as it is registering twice the number of new voters in comparison to the BN. If this ratio translates into votes for the various parties then if there are an additional 1.5 million cast for GE13, it will mean that PR obtains another million votes whereas BN only gains another half a million votes. Thus the scenario may well be that BN has a total of 4.6 million votes and PR obtains 4.8 million votes.
The question then is whether PR can win the additional 30 parliamentary seats that it needs to form the government. This is quite possible with around 10 additional seats coming from Sabah and Sarawak and the balance 20 seats coming from the peninsula. Thus if PR attains 112 seats and BN 110 seats then PR takes over the government right? Well not quite. In all likelihood there will be a lot of confusion on the night of the counting and results may not be immediately apparent.
There will be some seats that will be challenged for electoral offences and at the same time there will be a scramble by the BN to try to get some of the opposition winners to cross over to the BN. The BN still has the power of incumbency on its side and to stay in power I have no doubt that they will do their utmost to entice some of the winning PR candidates. Many may consider this immoral but bear in mind that crossing over is entirely legal in Malaysia. Thus if PR only has a very small majority in Parliament, it is highly probable that BN will still be able to retain its power via crossovers.
The above scenario assumes that nothing much has changed since 2008 and that two out of every three new voters will vote for the opposition PR. The reality of course is that not all of the 4.1 million who voted for the BN or the 3.8 million who voted for PR in 2008 will do so again. The main question is which party will lose more votes?
Of course, lately with BN’s mishandling of the Bersih rally, it would seem that BN would be losing more of its core constituents. The BN leadership is acting too paternalistically and continues to talk down to the voters. The legitimate aspirations of the voters too are not given free play. In the heat of the moment, I would not be surprised if many voters take the view that they want to teach BN a lesson for its arrogance and show the BN who the real Boss is.
On the other hand, it was not so long ago that the opposition too had its own problems not least of which was the apparent weakness in PKR’s party elections where it seemed that PKR was rather devoid of active members within the party. The opposition PR too has its own internal squabbles and at times it seems that the ideological divide is hard to bridge.
To serve the best interest of the nation, it would be better if on the day after GE13 the people give a clear majority of around 20 seats or so to either the PR or BN. If the results are too close, it will lead to instability in the government which will not be good for Malaysia.
Though it is still some way to go before March 2013 when elections have to be held, it appears that today PR has a slight advantage over BN in terms of popular votes. Things can change in the interim to favour the BN but they will have to work very hard for it.
As it stands today, it seems that time is the only clear factor that BN really has in its favour.