Pepper Lim recounts the story of Malaysia’s GE13 and the excitement of watching the election results.
6th May 2013
It is 8 o’clock in the morning on the day after the 13th General Elections. What an exciting elections it was! I was at Pusat Rakyat LB with fellow Loyarburokkers, the UndiMsia gang and POLITIKO gamers to watch the elections results roll in. I am not sure if you remember but you were there for a while before I took you home for bed. I wanted you to be part of the excitement as the rakyat chooses our next government.
Run Up To the Elections
After the 2008 elections, I thought a strong wind of change was sweeping the country. The opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, made surprising gains when it won five states: Kelantan, Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Perak. Soon after that, I joined UndiMsia and started to write for Loyarburok.
Being involved in UndiMsia’s voter education programmes, I witnessed for myself the new changes among the rakyat. Once, they were timid and tight lipped about their thoughts of the government and politics, now they were quite vocal. While carrying out a Laporan Rakyat survey in Semenyih, a Malay man approached me to fill in the form, much to my surprise. It is usually very difficult to get a person to fill in survey forms but when this man heard the forms would be given back to the respective ahli DUNs, he made his dissatisfaction clear. We were standing outside the Semenyih market, in full view of everybody that morning, yet he spoke what was on his mind.
Since the 2008 elections, Pakatan worked hard in preparations for GE13. Many NGOs sprouted and became very vocal of the government and its policies. People around me were talking about change. “Ubahlah!” and “Ini kali lah!” were on the lips of many of my friends. We talked about it, blogged about it and tweeted it. We shared it on Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber, Kakao, and almost every communication channel available to us. This time, I really felt it was possible to end Barisan Nasional’s 56 years in power. You know how I feel about their many failures: human rights, poor standard of living, cronyism, corruption, crime, cover ups, inefficiencies, etc.
So, when PM Najib announced the dissolution of Parliament on the 3rd of April 2013, I was very excited. “Finally!” I thought. “We can now vote for the next government!”
Drama, Oh Drama!
The excitement continued when Najib dropped many old guards from Barisan and replaced them with new faces! Wanita UMNO’s ex-presidents Rafidah Aziz and Sharizat “Cow-Gate” Jalil, ex-PM Abdullah Badawi, MCA’s ex-presidents Ong Tee Keat, Chua “I Was the Man in the Video” Soi Lek, Ng Yen Yen, and YoRais were axed. Maybe Najib is serious about transforming his coalition or maybe he is getting rid of his enemies within his camp, I thought. Ugh, he also gave PERKASA’s deputy, Zulkifli Noordin, a slot in Shah Alam! Duh!
Many Barisan candidates who were dropped such as Wanita UMNO’s deputy president resigned immediately and stood as independent candidates.
Anwar’s coalition also had its share of troubles. Pakatan was supposed to give their opponents 1-to-1 straight fights but their dropped candidates also contested as independents. At the Kota Damansara parliamentary seat, PAS challenged PSM’s chairman against BN.
Days before Nomination Day, the Registrar of Societies threatened to deregister DAP! That would mean that DAP, which was formed in 1965 and which controlled Penang, could not stand for elections. Lim Kit Siang wept openly.
15 Days of Campaigning, Also Drama!
As the campaigning period neared, the rakyat noticed BN was using government assets to promote their party, putting up flags and banners. Since the country only has a caretaker government, the rakyat questioned the right for anyone to use national assets as their own. Malaysia’s own Tariq Aziz, YoRais, explained that it is all right to do so!
The rakyat also asked for equal opportunities for all political parties to present their manifestos on TV. The opposition had no access to television coverage at all. To this, YoRais offered only 10 minutes of airtime! So generous of him! (Note: Tariq Aziz was Saddam Hussein’s international spokesman who would go on TV and say the exact opposite of news reports that did not favour Iraq during the Dessert Storm war.)
Meanwhile, Anwar and his coalition went around the country to give ceramahs. Reports of large crowds attended. On the other hand, I read reports that Barisan’s ceramahs were also well attended. “Oh, itu, sebab Barisan bagi free makan, lucky draw dan ang pow la!” was the explanation by my friend.
Your Ah Ma who has never attended a political ceramah went to three! She told me the MCA ceramah she attended had more empty seats than people.
The ceramahs had their own dramas too. In GE12, the police often moved in to shut down Pakatan’s ceramahs. This time, several bombs exploded at different ceramahs, injuring several people! Both sides blamed each other while the police turned up nothing. There were the usual despicable samsengs, talks of pengundi hantu and allegations of RM7 billion being transferred out of the country by 1MDB.
At the end of the campaigning period, ABU’s Haris Ibrahim predicted a win for Pakatan. His blog said Pakatan would win 126 seats. I wish it was true.
Polling Day 5.5.13, More Drama!
Your Jee Chek woke up at 3 am so he could drive down to KL to cast his vote. He and I arrived at our polling station at 7.50am and already there were about a hundred people lining up to go in! To counter the reports of alleged pengundi hantus, we were told to vote as early as possible. I later read reports of a lady went to vote only to find out someone else had voted in her place.
After that I went home and surfed the Internet for news. There were some reports of several pengundi hantus here and there but not to the extent of thousands of them descending at a certain constituency.
The biggest joke of the day had to be the ‘indelible ink fiasco’. When Bersih suggested the use of indelible ink to mark a voter to prevent him from voting more than once, the Elections Commissions (EC) said it was not needed. Then, they changed their minds and said they would implement the indelible ink. The EC said the ink would stain a voter’s finger for seven days.
When the police and army personnel went to the polls, reports appeared showing the indelible ink could be washed off with soap or liquid hand sanitiser. The EC brushed it aside by saying the ink bottles were not shaken beforehand and this problem would be taken care of on May 5th.
That morning, photos of the indelible ink being washed off with soap, water and Clorox circulated on the Internet. One man managed to clean his inked finger using leaves outside his poling centre! The EC’s response? Oh, the RM10 million ink had to be halal and that affected its effectiveness! What crock!
At 7 pm, with a heart full of hope for a new government, I made my way to Pusat Rakyat LB with you to watch the elections results roll in. The initial news trickling in via Twitter and Malaysiakini were supposedly promising. That was what Uncle Edmund told me when I met him. He said, Barisan usually led the early vote counts but this time, many Pakatan candidates led the early vote counts!
The Results Rolling In. Still More Drama!
At Pusat Rakyat LB, the mood was jolly. Everybody had their smartphones out, checking various websites for winner and losers. There was a projector set up with Malaysiakini’s updates online. UndiMsia had even handwritten all the parliamentary seats on coloured Stick-It notes so we could track the winners and losers.
The results came in little by little. The first few seats were won by Barisan. These were seats with low voters and their counting was completed quickly. Pakatan was trailing but I was still hopeful. There were still 200 seats to go.
The first good news for me was that PERKASA’s Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin lost! We all gave a jubilant shout.
The usual political heavyweights and favourites won their seats without much fanfare. The parliamentary seat I voted for was also won by the favourite.
Then came the shockers. Barisan’s candidate Saifuddin Abdullah lost. I had hoped that he would win. He was a minority voice within Barisan who spoke up against his own party. PAS’s big guns, Mat Sabu, Dr. Dzulkefly, Dr. Haron Din, Husam Musa and Salahuddin Ayub, also lost.
Nurul Izzah and Lim Kit Siang’s seats were thrilling. I wondered if it was at all possible for 72-year-old Lim to defeat Abdul Ghani Othman, the three-term Menteri Besar of Johor at his home turf? He did! He received 37% more votes than Abdul Ghani!
I also feared for Nurul Izzah’s chances. A year before the elections, her opponent, the Minister of Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Raja Nong Chik had started his offensive for Lembah Pantai. His campaign looked sleek, professional and expensive. In the end, Nurul won with a slim 1% margin!
All Is Lost
By 1 am, Pakatan was trailing badly. Barisan had won more than 90 seats and we were receiving more news of Barisan candidates poised to win their respective seats. I left and went home to sleep.
In the morning, the news showed Barisan had won 133 seats against Pakatan’s 89. All the Facebook and Twitter activism had not worked as I had hoped. All the protests for Lynas, KL112, and Bersih did not work to change the government. Those big crowds at Pakatan’s ceramahs could not swing the non-urban vote.
One thing still bothers me though: Pakatan Rakyat won the popular vote with 51% of the rakyat supporting it. So, how did Barisan Nasional, which had 4% less support from the rakyat, form the government with 60% of the parliamentary seats? Go figure!
Your loving father,