Now that the battle is over, various armchair analyst and critics from both ends have provided their take on the Hulu Selangor by-elections. Let me provide my view now.
Having been to some of the campaigns as well as talking to mostly Pakatan Supporters throughout the campaign period, the results came as a shock. I was constantly told by Pakatan Supporters that Zaid is very likely to win although from the events that unfolded during the campaign period, I reminded them that it was still 50:50.
Pakatan Supporters, some of whom are local PKR leaders in Serendah with contacts in other small towns like Batang Kali, Kuala Kubu Baru, Sg Choh etc , were confident that PKR will definitely win over Chinese and Indian votes. This is despite Millions that were thrown around by Najib and the BN battalion. They were also confident that Indians will still vote for PKR despite the candidate being another Indian.
They were largely correct. Indians and Chinese took whatever BN gave and still voted for PKR’s Zaid although there is a marginal shift in Indian votes towards BN. Character assassination on Zaid did not really work amongst the non-malay voters. Chinese and Indians still remember Zaid as a man of principles.
So what actually went wrong for Pakatan.
1. As for the candidate, for once Pakatan looked quite arrogant as compared to BN. Kamalanathan did his walkabout in simple attire and running shoes while Zaid went about in his luxury car, says a friend of mine. Perception matters, have we heard enough on this about UMNO leaders before. It appears that PKR is also muda lupa..
2. As for the campaigns, there were largely not interesting. While Chinese can appreciate national issues, the malays and Indians did not. Who cares about APCO when the state government can even resurface the road next to my house, says a Pakatan Supporter. Stolen jet engines, Submarine, Teoh Beng Hock , Kugan etc did not resonate well with the Malays. This is where they lost.
3. Anwar’s association with Jewish leaders were already well known, therefore Malays did not buy his APCO argument.
4. Who will buy your argument when you have people like ‘lori sampah’ Gopalakrishan of Padang Serai talking nonsence half the time. Issues were not carefully chosen to suit the audience.
5. Campaigns were ad-hoc, not well coordinated and at times, the speakers were either not on time or never turned up.
6. PAS campaigns were more focusing on defending Zaid. ‘Allah menyanyangi orang yang bertaubat’ goes one of the sentence. PAS talking about lack of development in Hulu Selangor since independence till Pakatan took over in the last elections does not hold water. Hulu Selangor is far more developed than Kelantan.
7. Local PKR leaders were too demanding, especially Indians. These leaders were holding their sponsors (upper PKR leaders) to ransom. First they were given RM 10,000 to run their operations centre (Bilik Gerakan) and also persuade voters in that particular area, then when Zaid’s drinking issue came about, they went on to demand another RM 10,000 claiming that it would be difficult to persuade voters.
8. Some local PKR leaders were also involved in negotiating with MIC and even Makkal Sakhti party, seeking cash in return of support, even after claiming their dues from PKR sponsors.
9. Some PKR Indians supporters claimed money from both Pakatan and BN for putting up posters around their towns. Talk about party loyalty.
10. PKR and Pakatan Rakyat state government did not do much in Hulu Selangor since the last general elections, despite promise of change for better during the campaign. Being a regular visitor there, even the basic infrastructure was not maintained.
11. Giving out land titles and funds to schools and temples, while were accepted by the residents in Hulu Selangor, they were thought to be no different from BN in terms of vote buying since they are only seen during the elections.
11. Pakatan Rakyat state government did not bother to do anything about the land issue in Felda Sungai Buaya, despite promising to do something in the last general elections. Here they lost about 700 votes to BN.
12. MB Khalid hardly visited this area since taking over the state government. He came to Felda Sungai Buaya for the first time ever on Saturday Morning, asking residents to be cautious and not sign any documents. The same afternoon, Najib came and gave out compensation to some residents and more importantly a plan to develop the land, something viable now since a new highway exit will be constructed by PLUS nearby.
13. PKR Indian leaders were more involved in the Ceramahs rather than site and house visits while MIC leaders were more hands on and were more on the ground, despite facing hostile and sometimes abusive crowd.
14. Pakatan Rakyat and it’s economic advisor did not have any plans on improving the living standards, investments and more job opportunities in Hulu Selangor. They were mostly interested in politicizing everything in their campaigns.
BN on the other hand, in my opinion, did not win anything. Votes for them that really made the difference were from Felda Sungai Buaya (700 votes) and also postal votes, another 700. Other than this, there was no significant shift in votes.
BN is still the champions in the Felda area, however they have failed to win over the Chinese and Indians in the townships. Throwing around millions should have resulted in at least 7-8,000 majority. It didn’t, therefore BN should learn that money can’t buy votes any longer. The Chinese community, despite benefiting millions, did not favour BN at all. Their anger towards UMNO and their leaders are still present.
Najib’s various initiatives such as Government Transformation Plan, New Economic Model, walk about may have brought about a feel good factor but the Chinese appear to want concrete results, more than mere rhetoric. They are also clearly offended with various slip of the tongue and racial slurs by UMNO leaders.
As for the Indians, they are generally still anti-MIC, although they are warming up to Najib. Most of them in Hulu Selangor are blind Pakatan Supporters who are now complaining about Pakatan Rakyat state governments failure to live up to their promises.
Only the PKR ‘Mandore’ Xavier Jeyakumar is popular for giving out funds to various temples and schools. But there were general discontent that that is not what they actually want. They want a better living standard and more job opportunities, something that is not very evident in Hulu Selangor since Pakatan Rakyat took over. One disappointed hardcore Pakatan Rakyat supporter from Felda Sungai Buaya lamented that the comments from one UMNO leader on ‘Indian being beggars’ was proven during the elections when many Indians took money from BN and voted blindly for them (BN).
In the end, this is no vote of confidence for Najib and certainly not for his deputy not this is a victory for Pakatan Rakyat in many areas as claimed by their supporters. Both parties have to remember that during the general elections, they will not be able to have such resources to go around with in the first place. They will also not have all their heavyweight leaders around for all ceramahs around the country within the traditionally short campaign period.
Therefore what they do between now and the next elections matters. If anything, the clear winners were Kamalanathan, who can hold his head high for a very decent debut while Hulu Selangor residents were the main beneficiary from the goodies thrown at them by opposing sides.