Cash handouts and development allocations were among the main factors BN used to win handsomely in the rural seats of Sarawak in the May 7 state election, says political analyst James Chin.
Chin claimed that money began flowing into the rural areas just before the voting day.
“The w ell-know n factor is ‘cash is king’,” he said in his lecture on the Sarawak election at the Sunway University in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, this afternoon.
“That was the main factor, because the money went down on the night before the election and on the early morning of the voting.
“That swung (the votes) around, that was the deciding factor. In social media, they call this the killer app,” Chin said.
According to political scientist Bridget Welsh, the Sarawak constituencies are made up of 30 rural, 38 semi-rural and 14 urban seats.
Sarawak BN won 72 out of the 82 state assembly seats in the recently concluded election. It lost 10 seats, mostly urban seats, to DAP (seven) and PKR (three).
Chin, who is also the director of Asian Institute at the University of Tasmania, Australia, hails from Sarawak.
Najib and his cabinet went to rural hot spots
“Prime Minister Najib Razak and his cabinet went to the rural hot seats and provided a wonderful thing that can only happen in Malaysia – called ‘on-the-spot grants’.
“So, you come on a helicopter and give drainage allocation, on the ground, when there is a complaint,” Chin said. “That was very effective in swinging the undecided voters.”
For many in the Borneo state, the state election was not meant to decide on a representative, but rather a festival w here free food and drinks, as well as handouts were showered on them , he said.
“Some even get attendance fees (for coming to the events of the election candidates). They got RM 35 from a low -class candidate and RM 50 for a high-class candidate,” Chin said, said to laughter.
He then sardonically said that this w as rather a “buy election” instead of a state election in nature.
That was not an election simply because BN had secured at least two-thirds of the seats in the state assembly through its strongholds and new seats created in the redelineation exercise, he said.
Chin expects to see the “cash is king” culture appear in peninsular Malaysia as well during the next general election.
However, he rejected the authenticity of reports in the foreign media that said Najib won big in the Sarawak state election, saying the real contributor to the victory was Adenan.
Umno still sidelined in Sarawak
At the end of the state election, he said, Umno is still being sidelined in Sarawak.
Chin also rejected views that support for the BN in the Sarawak election would also flow into the peninsular and affect how people in the rural areas of West Malaysia would cast their ballots.
“Throughout history, there was never a link on the voting patterns between rural Sarawak and rural peninsular.
The was only once – the 2013 general election – when the Chinese communities in Sabah, Sarawak and the Chinese community in the peninsular voted for the same side, according to him.
He also foresees that Najib m ay adopt the BN direct candidate model, which proved successful in resolving the split among B N parties and
BN -friendly parties in Sarawak, in the peninsular during the next general election.
“I suspect Umno will start looking for BN direct candidates in the peninsular for the “problem” seats.
Umno very secure in peninsular
“As you know, there is an unofficial alliance between Umno and PAS . So Umno is very secure, at least for the next general election, and it may work on this direct candidate issue,” he said.
To a question put to Chin after his lecture, he defined the problem seats in the peninsular as the MCA and Gerakan seats, which risk falling, as well as in some Umno seats where the people involved were engulfed in internal fights.
“Both MCA and Gerakan are so weak, so Najib may need to think carefully if they are winnable.
“The standard joke that people know is the president of MCA never stood in a Chinese majority seats,” he added.
At the question-and-answer session, Chin denied that the government purposely kept the rural people poor in order to retain power.
“The issue is not keeping the rural people poor. It is to keep the same amount of voters in the rural environments.
“That’s why the voters are getting older and older while the younger people move to the urban areas.
“The real control is making sure that the young people, who are educated and may vote against the government, move to the urban areas,” Chin added.
“That is why the numbers of urban voters are getting bigger, while the numbers of rural voters are declining.”– May 13, 2016.