Hulu Selangor: A Buy-Election of Many Tales

P. Kamalanathan of MIC defeated Zaid Ibrahim on Sunday 24 April 2010 in the Hulu Selangor by-election by 1,725 votes.  This is history.  BN took the better of PR in this by-election, no doubt about it.  This is a fact.  How it was won is not of particular importance to those who won.  But to those who lost, the reasons to explain are aplenty.

Summary Results of the 2010 Hulu Selangor By-Election

Kamalanathan – 24,997

Zaid – 23,272

Majority – 1,725

Total = 48,935

Spoilt – 731

With all the post election analysis coming out, every man and his dog have a theory about why BN won and why PR lost.  However, there are a few pertinent points that are worth looking at.

1.  PR is no pushover and a major contender against BN

Without looking at the historical details of votes garnered by PR in the GE12 results compared to the recent one, we cannot deny the formidable challenge Zaid gave to Kamalanathan.  Even Tun M (read here) conceded this fact.  No one from BN or Umno dare admit to this but it is so glaring that you have to be blind not to see it.

Muhyiddin thought that BN can win by 6,000 votes.  It has been argued that there are 735 less spoilt votes that may have come from BN voters who were protesting in the GE12 election.  That would mean that BN had only gained 990 votes this round.  We will leave this for further analysis by others.

Suffice to acknowledge that Zaid could have “almost” won.  BN cannot afford to brush off the PR challenge and this result will give the BN leadership nightmares thinking of what lies ahead.

2.  BN had to throw everything to win this

One cannot deny the fact that BN had to use everything they had at their disposal to win this by-election.  From the PM, DPM to various Ministers descending on Hulu Selangor to take on the challenge from Anwar, Lim GE, Lim KS, Nik Aziz and Hadi Awang.

Notwithstanding the public services resources at their disposal, BN had also used vast amounts of public funds to “encourage” voters to vote for the BN candidate.

According to a report by Chinese-language newspaper, Oriental Daily, the Barisan Nasional-led federal government had spent close to RM167 million in projects for Hulu Selangor.

The Malaysian Insider has separately estimated that BN had pledged and arranged for more than RM70 million in donations, projects and other aid for voters during the campaign.

(read here)

Considering this arsenal that was thrown into the battle, we could have thought that this was the GE13 instead of a by-election.  The stakes were apparently made to appear very high and the usual BN talk it up to make it sound real as they did about the economy did not quite help.

The so-called KPI that Muhyiddin declared that BN will win by at least 6,000 or the Ibrahim Ali wildly shouting that BN will win by at least 3,000 given the gauntlet was thrown in by Najib himself made the BN scramble to save “face”.

Anyone can see that the results of 1,725 majority did not justify betting the entire house on this by-election.  It has made a mockery of the BN campaign and ultimately shown that it takes EVERYTHING the BN has to win over a candidate like Zaid Ibrahim.  And it was almost not enough!

3.  Problems in the PKR Campaign Machinery

There is no denying that the BN campaign machinery is far superior and cohesive than the PR machinery.  Led by PKR, the other team members were not appearing cohesive to campaign for Zaid.  Although PKR will deny this, there appears to be much truth in the reports.

The lack of coordination and frustrations all round would have contributed much to the lack of oomph in many of the PR initiatives including polling day activities.

There may still be vestigial Umno behavior in waiting for “financial allocation” to work.  They should take the cue from the rest of the workers coming from bloggers and volunteers who do it for the cause rather than for the money.  If PR is to win, these bad behavior must be eradicated before the next GE.  It can be said that BN will be totally unable to break this “custom” so they must do other things to compensate for volunteerism – they use MORE “financial incentives” – whether cash or food.

4.  A Bad Product but Marketed Well can have more Buyers

It is not necessary to have the best product in the market to attract buyers.  We can see in this by-election that a “compromise” product can beat an established brand.

It is about how much money one is willing to throw into the marketing campaign and in this case, BN overwhelmed PR in this respect.  Whether it is legal or not, the EC nor the MACC has not said anything about this but Zaid surely will not let this matter rest.  He will use all avenues to challenge what can be seen as an unfair use of public funds.  We shall see how this pans out in the coming weeks.

This is to over compensate for a poorer product than the competition.  Kamalanathan is a compromised candidate that Umno and MIC had to come to grips with.  This did not go well with many of the MIC grassroots and the Indian votes had to be convinced at all cost.

5.  Hindraf would not have mattered

Surely Hindraf is arguing that had PR accepted their terms and then Hindraf campaigned for them would the fortunes for Zaid have changed for the better.  But we will never know for sure.

Hindraf played a major role in the GE12 to give PR a crucial boost.  Hindraf was missing in this by-election.  This does not mean that Hindraf would have made the difference to PR.

What is clear is that PR will not bow to Hindraf’s demands, neither will BN.  So, Hindraf is now sidelined in their political aspirations when they are supposedly apolitical to begin with.  As we have seen in Hulu Selangor, there is nothing apolitical about Perkasa.  There will not be anything apolitical with Hindraf either.  When you come out campaigning for either side, you are political!

Can Hindraf convince more Indians to vote PR? We’ll never know now and they can say anything on hindsight.  This is a moot point.

6.  Chinese Voters Continue to Defy BN

PR won in all the Chinese majority areas.  These are comments from various sources even before the detail results are analyzed.  However, this seemed to be universally accepted as fact by both BN and PR.  Even the “promise” of RM3m to a Chinese school there did not stem their sentiments against the BN.

BN has to work harder in this area.  Preliminary assessment shows that BN lost more ground in Chinese votes compared to GE12.  Further erosion of support from Chinese voters should make BN wake up to go win this group of voters with new ways.  The old threats or bribes do not go down well with them or they are already immune with the “same old, same old”.

Does the PR appeal to the Chinese voters?  Maybe but maybe not what we think.  Maybe they think the PR is better of the two not because PR is a saint but is the better of two devils at this point.  And they are willing to give PR a chance.  So far, so good is what they think!

The knee-jerk reaction by Ibrahim Ali calling the PM to reconsider support to the Chinese voters shows how immature he is.  Why didn’t he call for withdrawal of support from the areas where the Malay voters did not vote BN?  Only he can’t see how inclined to one race he really is.  Perhaps he is shouting this to demand to be seriously considered by the Malays.  Right now, kudos to Najib for ignoring him.

Chua Soi Lek claimed that Perkasa was one of the main causes that the Chinese voters abandoned BN while Ibrahim Ali contended that MCA was rejected before Perkasa was even formed.  While this be true, it is also a fact that the Chinese voters did not reconsider voting BN due to Perkasa.  Their rhetorics against the Chinese helped widen the rift.

7.  Malay Voter Balance Tilts towards BN

This is what BN wants to think.  It is generally agreed that had BN not gone on a donation spree taking what is due to the Felda settlers and also “monetary encouragement” to the Orang Asli leaders, BN will have lost the by-election.

BN managed to take “what is due to the settlers” and changed the platform to “see we are giving you rewards” must be applauded.  This is a classic baton switch and BN is pro in this.  PR has no reply to this.

If PR wants to win, they must fix this department and continue to cause the split in the Malay votes.  RPK has suggested that PR has to win at least 60% to tilt that balance effectively.  BN knows this all too well and now has Perkasa to form a tag team to drum up Malay votes.

And this is particularly in rural Malay votes that PR must win over to become absolutely formidable.  Right now, PR is just formidable but not enough to become the next Government.

BN is desperate to keep their position whilst PR is not quite there yet but getting there fast!

This shows that we will have a very interesting GE13 in the making!


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