Monday, May 22, 2006

Sarawak Election - Anwar Ibrahim Factor

The Sarawak state election had the following winners and losers:

Party – Contested – Won
BN – 71 – 62
DAP – 12 – 6
PKR – 25 – 1
IND - ? -1
PAS – 1 -0

In my previous posting Sarawak Election - the Chinese Factor I discussed DAP’s win at the expense of SUPP. But what about PKR? Battling for the people’s favour in 25 seats it has only one to show, in Padungan which Sarawakians knew was rather iffy for the BN.

PKR deputy Youth chief, Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin said: “Di mana-mana Anwar pergi, ribuan rakyat menghadiri program beliau, baik di kawasan bandar atau luar bandar termasuk di kubu kuat BN.”

Translated: “Wherever Anwar goes (or went), whether in urban or rural areas including the strongholds of the BN, thousands of people would be present.”

And indeed they were, just like at Pengkalan Pasir in the recent Kelantan by-election. But just as in Kelantan, the Sarawak public who had attended his campaign programmes did not translate their interests in Anwar into votes for his party PKR.

The PKR’s extremely poor showing has proven Sarawak CM’s words true that the magnetic attraction of Anwar Ibrahim, that was evident during the campaign, was nothing more than entertainment value for the locals, as had been similarly analysed for the hugh turnout for him at Pengkalan Pasir.

Of course the opposition parties like PKR suffered hugh disadvantage during the campaign in terms of resources, fair press coverage and adequate publicity, but so did the DAP. Their contrasting performance can’t be more striking. The DAP won 50% of what it fought of, whilst the PKR could only manage 1 seat, or a 4% success.

It’s still a win no doubt, for it has slightly, very, increased its representation in the political field, but it’s disappointing nonetheless when it brought out its prize fighter, its WMD so to speak, in Anwar Ibrahim for nothing, or more correctly, without any significant effect. The following is what Malaysiakini reported on DPM Najib opinion of PKR:

Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak yang mengatakan PKR seumpama 'hidup segan, mati tidak mahu.' Najib dilaporkan berkata: “Di Semenanjung ia sudah bernyawa ikan, sekarang ini hendak berpindah mencari kolam baru kerana di sini suasananya lebih nyaman.

Loose translation: DPM Najib said the PKR is in a state of being neither dead or alive. In Peninsula (West) it’s like a fish (out of water). Now (that’s before the election) it wants to change to another pond which it reckons is more congenial.

'Hidup segan, mati tidak mahu’ - 'Shy to live but doesn't want to die' meaning 'neither dead or alive'. Those were the immortal words of the late Tun Ismail in his angry decription of the MCA after the 1969 election when the Chinese party was decimated by the DAP, Gerakan and PPP collectively. In borrowing those words to decribe the PKR, Najib has been spot on.

I personally believe that Anwar Ibrahim as the fiery magnetic reformasi (reformation) pole, that the Malaysian public had massed around some 7 years ago, has passed it’s use-by date.

When he was expelled from UMNO, most anti-Mahathir people flocked around him. He mistook that as a measure of his personal popularity when it was more of a case of anti-Mahathirism. When Mahathir subsequently left the scene, Anwar lost his lustre as the focal point of the anti-Mahathirism movement. In fact, his UMNO background began to re-emerge. But he and his close followers failed to wake up to that.

One of his worst mistakes after he was released from prison was his attempt to whitewash and teflon-ise himself, by blaming everything on Mahathir. Many of his (new, not former UMNO hardcore) supporters would have respected him more if he had admitted to his errors and UMNO-ed contamination, instead of trying to deny the undeniable.

He insulted our intelligence by his pretence that he had been lily-white all along. No one had expected him to be, and he would have been forgiven for his UMNO odour if he had said “Yes, I was inside UMNO thus I failed to see things then as I see them now. My expulsion (from UMNO) has been a blessing in disguise. I now have a second chance to do things right for all Malaysians.”

Additionally, blaming someone else is bad news in Malaysian social culture, even if Mahathir was the one being blamed. Malaysians just don't like to see their hero casts aspersions on others - it makes the hero come across as a mean and petty person. Anwar diminished his hero-status by lots in bad-mouthing Mahathir.

Another mistake, and the one that bugs many of his erstwhile supporters most, has been his coyness about rejoining UMNO. Yes, he said he won’t, but there’s always a ‘qualification’ in his statement when he said that, which leads people to believe that Anwar still would rejoin UMNO, if that ‘qualification’ is changed or fulfilled (depending on how he had said it). Why can’t he make a declaration without any such ‘qualification’.

And recently he even offered his 'vast experience' to the government to sort out the scenic bridge fiasco with Singapore - what could we have read in that?

It’s a shame PKR failed to learn from the Pengkalan Pasir experience where his campaigning did buggerall for PAS. PAS did lose, or could have won, without Anwar at all. Yes, there was political skulduggery but the reality has been Anwar was nothing more than, as CM Taib said, entertainment value for curious locals.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, Sarawak was PKR's last chance to grab the 5 seats it aimed for to have a meaningful continuing role in Malaysian politics. It failed significantly, and in many ways, Anwar Ibrahim contributed to that sorry outcome. The general public no longer believe in him. As an example, his pontification on increased oil royalty for Sarawak came across as hypocritical and opportunistic. I am sorry to say this, but the PKR, while not exactly finished, is in a serious state of terminal illness.

It’s time PKR re-think its strategy as its so-called prize attraction is no longer the potent weapon they had been banking on to lead them to the political land of milk and honey. Yes, there will always be a core element in PKR who is completely devoted to him. But the others including Dr Syed Husin must now think of how they can contribute more meaningfully, either in PAS, DAP, or PSM.

(1) The Haunting of Anwar Ibrahim
(2) Anwar Ibrahim - More Baggage!
(3) Aptet II Disgrace - He who cannot be named!
(4) Petronas Accountability - He who cannot be named!


  1. Ur 21 May Posting - You mentioned all of SUPP's loss was against DAP. The previously SUPP Engkilili (Dayak Majority Seat) seat went to SNAP:MDC, not DAP. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Desmond I stand corrected but do see my other posting of 21 May titled: "BN retained Sarawak, but DAP shines" which correctly attributed Engkilili to SNAP.

  3. Hi I was wondering whether you know how to find out the turnout figures? I couldn't see anything in the newspapers. Thanks.

  4. I read somewhere (can't remember which papers) that it was only 60%. Sorry, can't source that yet. I'll put it up when I can successfully retrace my reading of that figure.