Monday, May 19, 2008

The Swing Factor That Tipped The 12th Election

In the wake of the 8 March 2008 General Elections (GE), we asked a prominent Singapore political analyst what was the one main factor that pushed Malaysians to vote for the Opposition? Was it a protest vote (push factor) of voting against the Barisan Nasional or a pull factor of voting for the Barisan Rakyat (as the Opposition was called then)?

Surprisingly, the political expert sounded as shell-shocked as everyone else. In his opinion, he said it was a combination of factors such as discontent over widespread corruption in the system, the rising crime rate, the perceived erosion of right of religious freedom, the political marginalization of the Chinese and the Indians, the NEP, Lingamgate etc.

In many ways, he was right but surely there must have been one tipping factor that tipped the 12th election outcome to swing into the Opposition with the gaining of five unprecedented states under their administration.

Until today, I am still looking for that one tipping point factor if there is one because I don’t believe people are so different that they can be motivated by a wide range of reasons.

Perhaps the BR did a great job through the new media. But was it Tony Phua who said, post 8 March, that even a cow would have won if it stood against the BN?

A decision-making framework I formulated before voting has helped me to understand and clarify the reasons behind my voting decision. In fact, I wrote a piece in Malaysiakini’s letter column called “Will You Swing Your Vote?” three days before the GE.

Looking back, as a first time voter, I voted for the BR because I wished to deny the incumbent BN a two thirds majority. This is described as the Strategic Vote. In my pre-election hypothetical case study, I assumed that the average Malaysian will attach a 30% weight to the strategic vote.

Now, after talking to friends and reading several blogs, I believe that the strategic vote counted more prominently with a 50% weight (and the balance 20% accorded to the political candidate and 30% for his/her policies).

If this was the key tipping point factor, then we can now better deal with the post-election issue of a potential change in the government through Pakatan Rakyat (PR) obtaining more state and parliamentary seats through “cross-overs”.

Since I did not vote for an outright change of government, why would I be in favour of the PR’s strategy to gain power through cross-overs, which is ethically questionable? My skpeticism about the timing of this formation of a new government is based on concerns that the PR party is not ready to form a unified, cohesive government with a consistent set of economic, social policies for the country.

Much of Pakatan Rakyat’s social economic objectives (apart from the debatable issue of lowering fuel prices) sounds great and the party may eventually and hopefully transform Malaysia into a more accountable, transparent and efficient country. But why the hurry in 2008? Is it because BN is imploding under its own weight? Or is it because Anwar Ibrahim is just impatient to form the next government?

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