“What future?”

According to many observers, last May’s election result “alerted” the political system. This could bring long-term benefits. Development will continue under the influence of the younger generations who believe that the racial policy should end in favour of common progress and peaceful coexistence.
Analysts also underline that, rather than criticizing the Chinese community for having abandoned the National Front and for having voted en masse for the opposition, the BN should admit that it failed to understand the country’s new political reality. The MCA for the Chinese and MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) for the Indians simply were not able to serve the community they were supposed to serve, losing credibility in the eyes of new voters, 26 per cent of those who voted in the last elections.
The young considered the changes introduced by Najib Razak before the vote to be inadequate. In particular, there was very strong opposition against the traditional policy aimed at favouring the bumiputera (‘sons of the earth’ – tribal minorities and Malaysian rural population). The result may help start the debate on the introduction of a value added tax that could make the country more competitive and free it from the “middle income trap,” that is, the relatively decent standard of living achieved that could be compromised by scarce competitiveness, insufficient investments, and economic stagnation.
dos11The educational system should also be reformed – the opposition is criticizing the costs of higher education. The reform cannot be delayed further. A social security system should be planned too. The Barisan Nasional will also have to address public security since criminality is on the rise. Eventually, the government will have to be able to aggregate the various components of the country, without exclusion policies.
In particular, in Borneo, national issues proposed by the opposition have gained ground among urban voters. As Faisal Hazis, an analyst at the University of Malaysia in Sarawak, pointed out, “The increasing demand for anti-corruption reforms, good governance, and fair elections originated in the urban areas of Sabah and Sarawak. They are now spreading across the peninsular part of the country.” Increased access to blogs and social media has also played an important role in developing trends in public opinion contrary to Government policies and in identification with the mainland. However, rural voters, concentrated in remote areas, mainly supported the Barisan Nasional. Last year, the party guaranteed their loyalty by distributing funds, granting scholarships and other occasional benefits.
In Sabah, 18 of the 25 seats in the Federal Parliament were won thanks to rural voters; in Sarawak the seats won were 25 out of 31.
“The opposition has made little progress in the countryside, above all for lack of resources to reach those areas,” a political analyst of Sabah, Arnold Puyok, confirmed. “They will have to do much more over the next five years if they want to provide themselves with a solid electoral dos12base in the rural areas.” Many of the leaders of the Pakatan Rakyat did not understand the local mentality. If they want to oppose the ruling coalition power in the insular provinces they will have to do more to understand the culture, tradition, and sensitivity of local voters.
Professor Puyok explains that the opposition will have to consider that the problems faced daily by people in Sabah (3.3 million of which 60 per cent are indigenous or tribal) and in Sarawak (2.5 million, with 75 per cent of natives) are different from those of the population of the peninsular regions.
This lack of “sensitivity” explains the Barisan’s positive result. It has the highest number of local seats in the two insular States: 48 out of 60 in the assembly of Sabah and 55 out of 71 in Sarawak. It is from these two states that the BN got the votes to gain a simple majority in the Federal Parliament.
In Sabah, in particular, issues linked to illegal immigration were at the centre of election debates. Sabah, in fact, like the Southern Philippines, was once part of the Sultanate of Sulu. It has been at the centre of a long territorial dispute with Manila and with the Sultanate’s heirs’ claims. For years, there have been 800 thousand illegal immigrants (mostly Filipinos) in the area. Since the eighties, with a peak during the last electoral campaign, the local population suspected that the ruling party had granted citizenship to many of them, especially in the minor and peripheral districts, even moving thousands of them to Sabah by plane. Guaranteeing a favourable election result. (S.V.)


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