Will the mini-tsunamis result in a bigger tsunami?: Sin Chew Daily columnist

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak inspects a Zigana PX-9 pistol during the Defense Services Asia (DSA) 2018 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 16,  2018.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak inspects a Zigana PX-9 pistol during the Defense Services Asia (DSA) 2018 exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 16, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

In the commentary, the writer highlights significant developments taking place ahead of elections in Malaysia but says they may not amount to a defeat for Barisan Nasional.

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Parliament was dissolved on April 7, but nomination will only be held three weeks later on April 28, making the "preparatory period" the longest ever in the country's history.

One of the reasons for this is to make way for the Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2018 meet, to be held in Kuala Lumpur from April 16 to 19.

 

It is impossible for prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to officiate at the event if it were during the campaign period.

However, a long preparatory period provides a great opportunity for a political tsunami to take shape, and three mini tsunamis are already in the making.

First and foremost, a tsunami from Malaysian workers in Singapore.

After the election commission fixed the polling date on a weekday on May 9, there was an instant surge among Malaysians working or studying outstation or overseas, or East Malaysians working on the peninsula, to grab air, bus or train tickets home.

There were even online campaigns for car pooling and sponsorships to help these people get back to their hometowns to vote.

 
 

Based on the 4th quarter 2017 electoral roll, there are a total of 1.81 million registered voters in Johor, and about half a million of Malaysians working in Singapore (around 27 per cent of Johor's voters).

In the event of a tightly fought battle in Johor, these returning Malaysian workers will be able to tip the balance.

These people have opted to work in Singapore due to the significantly lower salaries offered here and a much higher Sing dollar exchange rate.

These are the people thought to be unhappy with the reality here, and it is therefore unlikely for them to make the troublesome journeys back here just to vote for the Barisan Nasional. It is therefore deceitful for BN leaders to claim that not all Malaysian workers in Singapore are anti-BN.

Given the ample time from the announcement of the polling date to the actual polling itself, Malaysians have the luxury of making painstaking plans for their journeys home.

An "UndiRabu" free bus campaign initiated by several local Chinese associations have received tremendous response from the public, and will benefit over a thousand Malaysian voters. This facility is now extended to include also the physically challenged.

Meanwhile, Johor DAP will also make available ten buses to ferry Malaysian workers in Singapore to various towns in Johor to vote, thanks to public donations.

As a matter of fact, it never really crossed anyone's mind that a weekday polling announcement could start such an immense "balik kampung" fever online.

Secondly, there's a mini tsunami among the orangaslis in Kelantan.

A few orangaslis were detained for protesting and setting up barricades to stop the access of logging companies to their homeland in Gua Musang district.

Although orangaslis number fewer than 7,000 in the state, they play a crucial role in some of the constituencies. For instance, there are 2,474 orangasli voters in Nenggiri and 2,866 orangasli voters in Galas, both state constituencies under Gua Musang.

These people are not expected to vote for PAS or BN, and will likely vote for Pakatan Harapan instead. However, as the number of orangaslis in Kelantan is insignificant, they will not pose a substantial threat to either PAS or BN unless they get the support from orangasli voters elsewhere in the country.

Thirdly, a mini tsunami among non-Muslim bumiputras in Sabah.

From what we understand, the Kadazan-Dusun community in Sabah has always been unhappy with the government for neglecting their needs.

Parti Warisan Sabah founded by former Umno president Shafie Apadal is poised to gain from such discontent.

The non-Muslim bumiputras' support of PBS in 1985 helped the party clinch the state administration. However, following the party's decision to quit BN on the eve of the 1990 general elections, Umno made advances into Sabah and later managed to wrestle the state administration from the hands of PBS.

Non-Muslim bumiputras have lost their dominance following the subsequent dramatic rise in Muslim population and redelineation exercise.

Today, Muslims make up about 44.5 per cent of Sabah's population, non-Muslim bumiputras 32.76 per cent, and Chinese 16.7 per cent. Nevertheless, there are as many as 16 Muslim-majority parliamentary seats in the state, only seven non-Muslim bumiputra and two Chinese seats.

As such, a strong anti-establishment sentiment among non-Muslim bumiputras will not actually unseat the BN administration in Sabah. BN will at most lose only a couple of seats.

These three mini tsunamis alone will not shake the foundation of BN's federal administration, unless they are all linked up to form a much bigger tsunami, or a Malay tsunami, before Pakatan Harapan can claim Putrajaya.

Although Tun Mahathir has managed to draw remarkable crowds of Malays in his ceramahs, this alone will not justify the claim that a Malay tsunami is already taking shape. Umno's vast resources and networks in rural areas and Felda settlements are powerful enough to block the advances of a Mahathir fever.

Whether these mini tsunamis can eventually evolve into a massive tsunami powerful enough to take out BN will very much depend on how Pakatan Harapan is going to ignite the emotions of the Malays during the campaign period.

The writer comments regularly on Malaysian current affairs. Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.