Inevitably one comes to the multi-million dollar question: will Pakatan Rakyat retain Penang in the next general election? The Rocket’s T.K Tan asked Chow Kon Yeow, Chong Eng, Dr P. Ramasamy, Phee Boon Poh and Lydia Ong about Pakatan’ chances and the pitfalls that it must avoid in order not to be a one-term government.
Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng notes that there is a palpable sense of enthusiasm from Penangites. With the various achievements that PR has made in Penang in the last three years, many believe that PR will retain Penang easily. Ironically the optimism is higher amongst people outside of Penang.
She believes PR would be hard-pressed to repeat the high margin of victory in 2008. “DAP is in danger of losing at least two state seats. The swing voters will be crucial as to whether we retain Penang or not; for them, the candidate factor is important as some in DAP are not performing to expectation,” she cautioned.
Padang Kota ADUN Chow Kon Yeow concurs as well. In an internal poll conducted by PR, he notes that the popularity of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has prevailed. However, DAP seems to have suffered a drop in overall support.
According to the internal poll conducted, currently DAP gets about 30 percent of support from Malays, around 70 percent from the Indians and more than 80 percent from the Chinese community. “The Chinese and Indian communities are generally satisfied with PR’s performance. It is with the Malays that PR has to put in more effort to shore up support,’ he pointed out.
Breaking old mindsets
With the Malays forming the majority in 14 DUNs, their voting patterns can determine PR’s chances of retaining the state. “In the outskirt areas such as northern and southern Seberang Perai and south west Penang Island districts, where the Malays predominate, we need to improve the level of support for PR. There is a certain level of danger for us here,” Chong added.
PR faces challenges in disseminating alternative information to the Malay areas. Chong relates, “in Bukit Teh which is a part of my Bukit Mertajam parliamentary seat, the Malays there are thoroughly indoctrinated to reject any non-UMNO media information; they will not take our Bulletin Mutiara free newspapers for reading.
“The Malays would generally be loyal to the incumbent government; it is difficult for PR to change their perception towards the new state government. We need to work on reaching out to them via the village work committee (JKKK) network to solve their daily amenity issues, connect with them through community events such as buka puasa dinners in mosques and highlighting PR’s achievements through free movies screening in the kampongs.”
Yet optimism abounds for DAP. Sungai Puyu ADUN Phee Boon Poh said, “many rural Malay used to say, before 2008 they have never trusted in DAP. Since then, in my visits to the kampongs, many Malays have told me they are touched by our sincerity in helping them. Nonetheless, many will not openly profess their support for DAP due to communal pressure and traditions. However the Malays are a grateful people; when it comes to voting, I believe they will vote for us.
Perai ADUN Dr P.Ramasamy also shared about anecdotal evidences of Malay community support: “When our scheduled buka puasa function with Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) staff were barred by the company’s management to be held in their staff quarters, the KTM staff came out in full force to join us in another venue nearby. Wherever I have attended Malay functions, their support for PR is getting visible.”
Support Not Taken For Granted
Though the Indians’ support level is seemingly comfortable for PR, Chong takes a different view. “There seems to be a sense of restlessness amongst the Indians in their support for PR. In 2008 around 80 percent of the Indians in Penang voted for PR; we are unlikely to gain that level of support in the next coming GE.”
“There are some grievances amongst the Indians; they don’t see any difference between PR and BN, as their livelihood have not visibly improved since 2008. Unemployment remains a problem for the Indians; many have asked, what has PR done to improve the employment situation for them. They know that they were one of the main catalysts for the political awakening of 2008; PR was placed in power by them. They are impatient for change,” Chong opined.
Berapit ADUN Lydia Ong also believes that DAP needs to give more chances for the Indians and Malays to shine in the party. “There will be some sacrifices that has to be made on some of our existing party members’ part,” she said.
Another pitfall that DAP and PR needs to be wary of is complacency. Lydia elaborated: “We need to maintain our humility, to be constantly in touch with the people. I try hard to discard greeting protocol and immersed myself with the youths when I am with them. Many people like that. However I noticed some of our elected representatives have begun to revel in these accolades.”
“I worry for DAP that it may one day go down the same destructive path that BN has taken. Many are fighting each other in scrambling for positions. We are here to serve people regardless of race, religion or political creed,” she cautioned.
However, a sense of cautious optimism is visible amongst them in regards with PR retaining Penang. “For now PR state government’s performance is engineering goodwill for us that will cover our perceptible shortcomings. However, the longer we govern, there is a higher chances of us making mistakes that may turn the electorate away from us. We must continue to be vigilant. If we make mistakes, admit it and rectify it and move forward,” Chong shared.
In particular, the relationship amongst the PR parties is a key factor. “The component parties in PR need to guard our friendship. Many people have told me they are tired with open fighting they saw in BN component parties, which is why they voted for us in 2008,” Lydia surmised. “Pakatan is a workable and winnable formula. However, we need to be cautious when making decision and public statements,” Chow added.
Phee, on the other hand, exudes optimism for the future. “With three years under our belt, PR has made many positive changes in Penang. We spoke of cleaning up, BN talks of covering up. The people have seen that PR has delivered the changes; they are confident we will have the experience to run the federal government. We are confident with Penang; we will be aiming for Putrajaya.”
“As for the margin of victory, anything is possible. For the moment our policies and programs have been planned and scheduled beyond the election dates,” he enthused. – The Rocket