BN gets a reprieve for reforms

12 May

Khairy said political parties have to realise that the young urbanites are not partial to conservative messaging. - File picKUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — As the dust settles on Malaysia’s 13th General Elections, Malaysians have come closer to agreeing that the polls outcome had exposed both a race divide and an emerging middle-class urban voice speaking in unity, the Straits Times reported.

BN Youth head Khairy Jamaluddin said while Datuk Seri Najib Razak acknowledged that the Chinese did not vote for the BN, the prime minister had also stressed to BN MPs that the community should not be blamed.

For one thing, there just aren’t enough Chinese voters to account for PR’s gains.

Chinese voters totalled about four million, or 30 per cent of the 13.3 million voters. PR won a total of 5.7 million votes.

Terengganu, which is 90 per cent Malay, came within a whisker of falling to the PR, while Kedah and Kelantan, two heartland Malay states, continue to have many seats in opposition hands.

The vote pattern shows the PR seats clustered around urban centres nationwide, said the report.

“Speaking generally, we do see a pattern of an urban-rural divide which explains more than a race divide,” said political analyst Ooi Kee Beng from Singapore’s Institute for Southeast Asian Studies to the Straits Times.

Ooi said PR’s urban success was not surprising as it was an urban phenomenon which tapped into the groundswell of urban activism that existed long before it came along.

“The PR didn’t create the groundswell, the groundswell created it,” he said.

The report also stated with more than 70 per cent of Malaysians now living in urban centres, according to government statistics, the young Internet-savvy urban Malaysian is the new normal.

Khairy added political parties have to realise that the young urbanites are not partial to conservative messaging. The defeat of hardline pro-Malay BN candidate Zulkifli Noordin showed that most Malaysians have moved to the centre and middle.

Now, in an acknowledgement of this vote swing, Najib is considering setting up a ministry to deal with urban issues, much like the Rural Development Ministry that has existed for decades. Even before this, he had already introduced measures to alleviate the complaints of city dwellers, such as affordable housing, cheap loans and public transport.

Yet, it may not be enough.

According to the Straits Times, political columnist Karim Raslan noted that urban voters focus on big issues such as abuse of power, graft and transparency in public life, on top of local services rendered.

Rural voters, on the other hand, tend to care more about the relationship between the politician and voter.

“It’s a much more paternalistic role,” he said.

A paternalistic strategy that looks into housing and roads may not work well in urban settings.

The report also stated that observers suggest BN might do better at winning over urban voters through genuine, robust reforms that go beyond the nuts-and-bolts type undertaken by Najib since he became premier in April 2009.

Some suggest that BN can start by reviving its plan for direct membership into the coalition, in a move towards dismantling race politics that have stymied real reforms and say it could also show genuine goodwill in working with the opposition in Parliament rather than squashing it.

The Straits Times reported Khairy as saying tackling the nitty-gritty — like the upkeep of public housing — was important to show that the government is sincere about the people’s well-being.

But it will come along with bigger reforms such as tackling corruption that the swing voters want to see.




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