Cover Story

Scaling The Wall

With 14 parliamentary at stake, Pahang’s voting direction will make or break BN’s hold on the federal government. Can PR make further inroads here? The Malay electorate holds the key.

Busting The Myth

Contrary to common perception, Pahang’s Malay voters have shown independent streak that has surprised even the meticulous BN’s intelligentsia. According blogger Sakmongkol AK 47, Najib’s close shave in the 1999 GE has resulted in him losing confidence in the UMNO-BN’s intelligence gathering since then.

Political awareness has arrived in Pahang, however faintly. DAP is making inroads here as it won two state seats in the last GE, its highest ever.

“With the advent of March 2008, there is increasingly more crossover acceptance from DAP and PAS’s base supporters, namely the Chinese and the Malays towards the other parties. This augurs well for PR,” Leong elaborates.

“DAP’s success in penetrating the Malay constituents’ acceptance is dependent upon our cooperation with PAS. In the past, it was very difficult for DAP’ to reach out to the Malays due to the UMNO’s successful propaganda and indoctrination in that community.”

“As for the Indian community, we are confident that DAP can maintain the support level we received in the 2008 GE. PR’s achievement in Selangor and Penang has helped to open their eyes as to what we can do; they are taking note of what PR is achieving.”

All things rural 

As a rural state, the rural voters call the shot with the FELDA scheme voters carrying the biggest weight in Pahang. “There are 17 state assembly seats where the FELDA voters predominate or can influence the voting outcome substantially,” Leong explains.

Traditionally, FELDA settlements are UMNO’s stronghold, an impenetrable voting bloc for opposition parties. Will the current scandal involving the listing of the FELDA settlers’ plantations under Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGVH) affect the settlers voting trend now?

“Some of the settlers are aware of what they have been cheated out of. In this instance we have to credit the efforts of the NGO ANAK in telling them about nooks and crannies on the listing.”

“In the past, many of them dare not attend opposition parties’ events for fear of reprieve from the government. In addition they were also conservative on their voting choice. Now things are changing; we have had consistently sizable crowd turning out for our ceramahs in these settlements.”

“Past GE result shows that it is not impossible to win in these FELDA seats. In 1999 GE, PAS managed to win four of these DUNs thanks to the anger towards Anwar’s infamous black end incident. Now with the NFC cow and condo scandal in full bloom, we can see the impact it is having on the Malay psyche. We hope to capitalise on this issue.”

As many of their children are working in the urban areas, the settlers are also exposed to the alternative media news. “We are counting on their children to feed them the information on what’s going on.”

Another crucial electoral bloc, the Orang Aslis (OA) are getting their due recognition after years of neglect. “As the state with the biggest OA population, we cannot afford to ignore the importance of their voting impact. Poverty and land ownership issues are the top concern for them. DAP is looking to prepare an OA candidate for the future, possibly even in the next GE. It is progressing well,” Leong beamed.

For the Indian community, it’s the citizenship issue. “The overwhelming majority of those of who don’t have the identification papers are deprived of employment and social mobility prospects. No ICs, no jobs; that’s often the case for many of them.” Will PR’s constant effort in highlighting this issue awaken them and stir their imagination? Time will tell.

Gauging the prospects

Macro trends aside, DAP’s efforts to win the seats contested will depend on the local issues and work effort laboured. Choong is optimistic for the Raub parliamentary seat.

“In Raub, there are several issues at play here. As the Bukit Koman victims are predominantly Chinese, the Chinese voters’ sentiment is with us. For the Malay voters, many are only now being aware of the danger posed by the cyanide poisoning in Bukit Koman. Our task is cut out for us – increase the Malay voters support and we can win the seat.”

“As for the Bentong parliamentary seat, the incumbent is generally liked by the people. However with his mishandling at the health ministry, the votes will definitely increase for PR.”

Is PR prepared?

Leong notes that the since 2008, the traditional constraints of manpower, machinery and money are not as pressing as before. “In addition, unlike BN, opposition party workers often labour on volunteerism basis. We hope to sustain this culture. However our PACAs volunteers are in still in short supply.”

What of the BN’s counter punch, the issues being played up? Leong exudes optimism that it will not trip up PR in Pahang. “Take the case of the hudud issue, it’s a non-starter here. Even in the divisive 1999 GE where the Islamic state and hudud issues affected DAP’s electoral performance nationally, Pahang DAP managed to perform reasonably well.”

“The PAS supporters club has done a good job in reaching out to the Chinese to explain about the real situation in Kelantan, not as vilified picture painted by MCA,” Leong added.

Is PR ready to become government? On paper, the sentiments points toward BN being re-elected here. However, Choong tells the supporters to be ready to assume power. “Nothing is impossible, post 2008.”

“ In our estimation DAP may possibly deliver 7 state seats, PKR 10 seats and PAS, 10 to 12 seats. That gives a PR 27 seat, 15 BN seats scenario.”

“Even in 1999, DAP and Barisan Alternatif (BA) then were already mentally prepared to assume power at the state government level. Our cooperation with PAS has never ceased even when DAP was not in BA. This time around we are even more ready for it.”

How will PR run Pahang? “We have the examples of other PR run states to draft our governing policies. We will take the best and most applicable from these states to implement in Pahang.”

“We have been actively recruiting people to be ready to take positions of power at the village level, council level, district level and of course the state government,” Leong elaborated.

“PR is gaining momentum in Pahang. It’s good performance in Penang and Selangor has made it easier for us to approach the people and tell them about what we stand for and we have achieved. In addition we have good rapport and cooperation with other PR parties here in Pahang.”

“As for DAP, before 2008 it was an issue to get enough candidates to contest all the allocated seats. Now we have a big pool of candidates to choose from. It’s a different headache for us (laughs)!” -The Rocket

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