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Friday, March 30, 2012

Rural voters



Written by: Dr. John Brian Anthony
I always heard that rural voters “spoilt” the opposition chances of winning election because they always vote BN. my experience say it depends. In Meluan I won in Bakatan and Lasi. I lost badly in Julau town and Merurun which is urban and semi urban. I  lost in Engkamop and Entaih which are rural areas. My learning is rural voters have big appreciation for face to face interaction between the candidates and the voters.
I lost in areas that I could not cover properly during the election preparation and during the campaigning period. The bigger reason is the “agenda” of the voters. When the voters expect “development through MRP’ they will vote for BN and also voters who expect to be compensated in order to vote.
Election preparation
It is true that many potential candidates do not do enough ground work before contesting the election. It is also true that many opposition areas do not have proper and committed organization to work for their candidate election. It is at most ad hoc in many instances. The reason are many. Most common is lack of money for the preparation of ground work and infighting on who should be the Opposition representative in the election. Politics therefor become more “personality” in nature rather then the a clear and endearing objective.
What make rural voters so difficult to influence
In my own view, rural voters have very little expectation from their leaders. Rural voters are more accommodating to a leadership weakness but held on personal relationship with the leader. The factor of “kaban” or “related” is a big factor. Therefor family tree and family ties are all important in rural voters.
The other factor is rural voters source of information where TV coverage is NI would be the radio. They listen to radio and this media is used widely by BN. A lie told a thousand time over would become the truth. The only interruption on this source of information are those different views that the rural voters got when he goes to town from coffeshop talk. Also their educated children would give them meaning and new perception of their situation.
Community leaders and civil servant also play a big role in influencing rural voters perception. Therefor, BN used threat, exercise threat by dismissing Tuai Rumah when they do not tow the BN line, the Welfare assistance given to the needy, award of MRP, award like BBS, ABS etc are highly prize etc. BN exploited all these to the maximum in order to get rural vote.
This however could be countered and explain if the opposition candidates has good interaction and time with the rural people.
BN Platform in rural areas
We must remember that there is very little entertainment in rural areas. So a Minister visit or government department function in the long house with food, drink and song provided build comfort level in the rural people relationship with BN.
The community leaders would also like to be given “face” in order to get more support from the long house “anembiak”. For a Tuai Rumah seen to be rubbing shoulders with Ministers, YBs and Government servants are very important event and experience. That is why many anembiak aspire to be Tuai Rumah so that they can rub shoulders with the visiting VIPs.
Conclusion
But once the rural voters change their support from BN to Opposition, it is difficult to dislodge except by by threat. This is done by party apparatus and the gentle nudge from the government servants.
Development in real term never become a real issue. The land grab today is a big issue but the Dayak voice become 3weak and helpless without activist and NGOs. The “fear factor” of the “perintah” is real and mighty and to win rural vote the opposition candidate really need to eat and sleep with them on a regular basis and share in their joy and sorrow. Therefor “social skill” in the rural voters way is important. Sharing by giving ‘money” to them in time of need is highly valued and long remembered. A kind word would go a long way and normal greeting of acknowledgement when you do meet rural voter is a sign of respect and good relationship.
UBAH – yes you can but then you must also need to follow some of the experience written above. It is not wealth and money that rural voters are after but relationship and care.
Change WE Must.

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