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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BN won Sarawak with notes not votes....

Analysts here agreed that money politics and widespread election irregularities contributed greatly to Barisan Nasional’s (BN) success in the just-concluded Sarawak polls. Speaking at a forum here last night, they related how BN had not mobilised its party machinery to campaign in the polls but instead made full use of both federal and state government resources to canvass for votes.

In the interiors, said the analysts who were also in Sarawak as observers, eye-witnesses told of vote-buying from as low as RM20 to some, and for others, up to hundreds or even thousands, depending on their geographic location.Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has also complained of vote-rigging, claiming the campaign had not been a level playing field for all contesting parties.

BN, claimed the opposition, had not only completely mobilised both state and federal Cabinet minister but also made use of departments like Kemas, Jasa, Information Department and Welfare Department to become campaigners and agents during the polls. The Malaysian Insider understands that BN’s federal government election machinery alone had cost over RM500 million for the 10-day campaign period.

According to PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli, there were also reports that Kemas and Jasa officers were made to camp out in longhouses several days before the April 16 polling day to distribute funds. There were numerous other complaints made against the Election Commission (EC) over vote tampering, the sudden blackout at a vote tallying centre, the EC’s refusal to allow a recount and its failure to provide copies of the Form 14 to party polling agents.

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat described the electoral discrepancies as a “scourge”, adding that BN’s had drawn much of its success from exploiting its role in government.

This election was not won by counting votes alone but by counting notes as well,” he told a Merdeka Center forum on the Sarawak polls, last night. He noted that BN candidates and politicians had depended on both private and public funds to woo voters and made use of the civil service to help them in their campaign.Government agencies and departments, he claimed, were made to organise and attend daily programmes with voters across the hornbill state.

It was a non-level playing field. Did you know that even the EC was used extensively... they were giving out BN leaflets to voters along with ballot papers!”he complained.

Wong also argued that the EC had deliberately blocked legitimate Sarawak-born citizens from voting as postal voters, resulting in an “unfair” reflection of the people’s support for the opposition.

“There are so many Sarawakians living elsewhere, whether in the peninsula or in Singapore or abroad but there were no postal ballots given for the Sarawak diaspora. “Many of these voters living outside the state do not have the funds to return just to vote. How can you expect them to fly home just for this?” he said.

Wong noted that unlike many from the peninsula who worked in East Malaysia, those from Sarawak forced to find jobs in the peninsula were often employed in low-paying jobs. “I think that the EC is probably guilty of being anti-East Malaysia. This is a serious issue of how they are denying East Malaysians their voting rights. “We have complained numerous times but no action taken,” he added.

Wong predicted that this will likely continue in the coming general election. “East Malaysians will not have much say. The elections are merely run so that the incumbent can be re-elected and not so that the voters can choose their leaders,” he said.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) lecturer Dr Faisal Syam Hazis agreed that election irregularities had boosted BN’s win in the polls, adding that it had also fuelled political patronage, particularly among the rural voters.

“Especially for those living in the interiors... the Muslim Bumiputeras for example, they have this respect towards authority, this fear of being marginalised, of losing political power... the low level of political consciousness,” he said.

Faisal alleged that BN campaigners had given cash handouts to voters in many seats where they felt threatened. “Some of the voters complained that ‘barang naik’ (prices went up) but the payments were still the same as the previous polls, at RM20.

They complain but RM20 was enough to buy their votes. If you talk to many of the rural Malays, even those who are being deprived from development, they say — we go to a government hospital so how can we go and vote against the government? “And that is patronage... the distribution of money only accentuates that,” he said.

Unimas Associate Professor Dr Andrew Aeria echoed the view that money politics and questionable campaign tactics had been employed during the 10-day campaign in Sarawak. “It was a case of PKR versus the federal and state government. There were 4Ms this time — money, media, machinery and muscle,” he said.

He noted that BN had used threats to convince voters to elect them into power. “They said — if you do not vote for us, we will pull back our services,” he said.

BN cruised to a thumping victory on April 16 when it garnered 55 of the 71 state seats up for grabs in the hornbill state. But PR still made inroads with its 15-seat victory, noting that despite being up against BN in an imbalanced competition, it had managed to more than double its seat representation in the state assembly.

source: The Malaysian Insider

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