Congratulations to the people of Malaysia! Opposition wins in 5 states.
The Malaysia general elections of Saturday, 8 March 2008 have resulted in stunning victories for the opposition coalition, Barisan Rakyat. The largest parties – DAP, PKR and PAS – have between them taken the state governments of Penang, Kedah, Kelantan, Perak and Selangor.
Excluding Kelantan, the opposition wins in the other four states have been described as a “shock defeat” by Bernama news because the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has lost its two-thirds majority “for the first time in history” (since 1969, that is. Malaysian history, lah). Instead it has won a simple majority.
PAS retained Kelantan, which has been governed by the Islamic-values based party since 1990. From that single opposition-governed state since the last 2004 election, there are now five. The BN government still have overall control of the country, made up of 13 states and three “Federal Territories” (two of which, in my humble opinion, are really too small to count).
Among those who ran for the elections and won parliamentary or state seats are fellow bloggers and acquaintances Eli Wong and Jeff Ooi, from the information I received. I’m not completely sure what the status of Eli’s win is, like whether she would become a member of the State Legislative Assembly in Selangor’s Bukit Lanjan state seat (is it dependent on who wins the overarching parliamentary Subang seat – of which Bukit Lanjan is one of three state seats – in Selangor?); but apparently Jeff has for the first time an opportunity to be part of the Penang state government. Congrats!
There is much excitement in the Malaysian blogosphere. In the election’s aftermath, issues like ethnic-based politics have already been brought up, a reflection of the people’s concerns arising from the era of BN-Umno dominance and influence. My take on this is that the issue of ethnicity in Malaysian politics and society will always been an issue of contention and sensitivity.
To put it bluntly, the BN government have poisoned ethnic relations in the country. According to the BBC, “Analysts blame ethnic tensions”, among other things, to have caused the BN’s popularity to drop. Well, the Beeb was right, but unfortunately there was no further analysis along those lines. And no, I’m not referring to the whole Islamic-PAS issue.
What we are seeing is that the ethnic tensions had a somewhat positive – but very qualified (because I do not wish this on anyone) – effect, almost by default: it created a broad cross-class coalition of six opposition parties that strove to transcend ethnic, religious and ideological differences – to fight at the ballot box against a government that has been mired in corruption and crass ethnic politics; not to mention an unresolved high-profile murder case involving senior political figures, human rights violations, and enforcing policies of gross inequality on all Malaysians.
Saturday’s election results have shown that the BN, Umno-dominated government have finally reaped a whirlwind of their own making.
So what now? “Savour the moment,” I told Susan when chatting online with her. “And I hope that the opposition can sustain themselves. Don’t be like Singapore.” (you know, that tiny little island-state south of Johor, at the far end of the Malay Peninsula…)
They will, she assured me. I wish I could be as confident as her, when I think about the political opposition and the average voter in Singapore. But one can always hope.
In the meantime, I can for the very first time in my short politically-conscious life, sincerely say, “Malaysia boleh!”
Job well done.
Overall election results (Susan Loone)
Making sense of the 2008 general election results (MalaysiaVotes)
BN retains power with reduced majority, loses four more states (Bernama.com)
Malaysia vote loses ruling grip (BBC)