Tuesday, April 3, 2012

UMNOpandora Box

The Corridors of Power
Barisan Nasional has perfected the art of gerrymandering. 55 years of practice has turned Barisan Nasional into an expert. They know how to hold on to the government with less than 50% of the votes. They can even hold on to the government with only 45% of the votes. And they know how to ensure that they will always win not less than 50% of the votes. They know how to ensure that whenever their vote bank reduces to less than 50%, they will pad the electoral roll with additional voters to keep the figure at not less than 50%.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
The Nut Graph posted an interesting piece today called How legitimate is our elected government? (READ HEREhttp://malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/from-around-the-blogs/48430-how-legitimate-is-our-elected-government). Now compare that article with the following from Wikipedia:
German federal election, March 1933
Federal elections were held in Germany on 5 March 1933. The Nazis registered a large increase in votes again emerging as the largest party by far, nevertheless they failed to obtain absolute majority. Thanks to the success in the poll, the party leader Adolf Hitler - appointed Chancellor since 30 January - was able to pass the Enabling Act on 23 March, which effectively gave him the power of a dictator.
The election took place after the Nazi Machtergreifung of 30 January when President Paul von Hindenburg had appointed Hitler Chancellor, who immediately urged the dissolution of the Reichstag and the arrangement of new elections. In early February, the Nazis "unleashed a campaign of violence and terror that dwarfed anything seen so far." Storm troopers began attacking trade union and Communist Party (KPD) offices and the homes of left-wingers. In the second half of February, the violence was extended to the Social Democrats, with gangs of brownshirts breaking up Social Democrat meetings and beating up their speakers and audiences. Issues of Social Democratic newspapers were banned. Twenty newspapers of the Centre Party, a party of Catholic Germans, were banned in mid-February for criticizing the new government. Government officials known to be Centre Party supporters were dismissed from their offices, and stormtroopers violently attacked party meetings in Westphalia.
Six days before the scheduled election date, the German parliament building was set alight in the Reichstag fire, allegedly by the Dutch Communist Marinus van der Lubbe. This event reduced the popularity of the KPD, and enabled Hitler to persuade President Hindenburg to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree as an emergency decree according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution. This emergency law removed many civil liberties and allowed the arrest of Ernst Thälmann and 4,000 leaders and members of the KPD shortly before the election, suppressing the Communist vote and consolidating the position of the Nazis. The KPD was "effectively outlawed from 28 February 1933", although it was not completely banned until the day after the election. While at that time not as heavily oppressed as the Communists, the Social Democrats were also restricted in their actions, as the party's leadership had already fled to Prague and many members were acting only from the underground. Hence, the fire is widely believed to have had a major effect on the outcome of the election. As replacement, and for 10 years to come, the new parliament used the Kroll Opera House for its meetings.
The resources of big business and the state were thrown behind the Nazis' campaign the achieve saturation coverage all over Germany. Brownshirts and SS patrolled and marched menacingly through the streets of cities and towns. A "combination of terror, repression and propaganda was mobilized in every... community, large and small, across the land." To further ensure the outcome of the vote would be a Nazi majority, Nazi organizations "monitored" the vote process. In Prussia 50,000 members of the SS, SA and Stahlhelm were ordered to monitor the votes as deputy sheriffs by acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring.
Now look at the above pie chart.
In March 2008, Barisan Nasional formed the federal government with votes from slightly over a quarter of the eligible voters. Pakatan Rakyat lost by a variance of less than 2%. That was all it was -- a variance of less than 2%. And that variance of less than 2% gave Barisan Nasional a majority of 58 seats in Parliament -- 82 seats for Pakatan Rakyat versus Barisan Nasional’s 140.
Almost 49% of the eligible voters either did not come out to vote or did not register to vote in March 2008. Hence with almost the same number of votes – 51% versus 49% -- Barisan Nasional got to form the federal government with a 58-seat majority.
Can you see how close Pakatan Rakyat came to forming the federal government in March 2008 if the elections had been based on votes rather than seats? Barisan Nasional may have won the general election with a 58-seat majority. But they won it with a majority vote of less than 2%.
What if the figure had been reversed? What if Pakatan Rakyat had won 51% of the votes opposed to Barisan Nasional’s 49%? Would Pakatan Rakyat have won the March 2008 general election instead?
A 2% vote-majority for Pakatan Rakyat would have given them an additional 160,00 or so votes. If these votes were from Peninsular Malaysia it would not have helped much. Barisan Nasional won less than 90 seats in Peninsular Malaysia. 55 seats were from East Malaysia. Hence a 2% variance in total votes would have still not given Pakatan Rakyat the federal government.
It appears like Pakatan Rakyat is fighting an uphill battle. Barisan Nasional wins 51% of the votes and they get to form the federal government with a 58-seat majority. If Pakatan Rakyat had won 51% of the votes instead, they would not have got to form the federal government even with a one-seat majority. At best, Barisan Nasional’s majority in parliament may have been reduced slightly. Instead of a 58-seat majority it could be, say, 50 seats.
This is mainly because even if Pakatan Rakyat had won 51% of the votes it would have been in the constituencies where they are already strong. So they can increase their votes but this would not necessarily mean they would increase their number of seats (or increase them slightly).
The general election is not about how many votes you win. Like what happened in Germany in 1933, you can win less than 50% of the votes and still form the federal government. Barisan Nasional too can win just 45% of the votes and still form the federal government. Pakatan Rakyat’s 55% votes will still not give them the federal government.
Barisan Nasional has perfected the art of gerrymandering. 55 years of practice has turned Barisan Nasional into an expert. They know how to hold on to the government with less than 50% of the votes. They can even hold on to the government with only 45% of the votes. And they know how to ensure that they will always win not less than 50% of the votes. They know how to ensure that whenever their vote bank reduces to less than 50%, they will pad the electoral roll with additional voters to keep the figure at not less than 50%.
But do not get disheartened. Even in the US and the UK this is so. Governments rule with less than 50% of the votes. Hitler in 1933 won only 44% of the votes but still formed the government. And he formed the government with only 44% of the seats as well.
Umno (without Barisan Nasional) in 2008 also managed to form the government with only 30% of the votes and 36% of the seats. And this is because Umno has ‘locked up’ the 13 other coalition partners under the banner of Barisan Nasional.
So, how are we going to see ABU (anything but Umno) happen? I really don’t know. We can whack Umno to kingdom come but they are still going to form the next federal government. And Umno will be able to form the federal government because they can still win the general election even if they win only one-third the votes and one-third the seats. This is because while Umno may win only one-third the votes and one-third the seats, they have 13 other partners who can bump up the votes to 50%, which will give them about two-thirds the seats. 
Hence, Umno can double the number of ruling party seats from one-third to two-thirds (under the banner of Barisan Nasional) by just increasing the votes by an additional 17% (from 33% to 50%). 
Do I have the solution to this dilemma? I admit I do not. And if I did then I should be the new Opposition Leader. I just hope that Anwar Ibrahim does though. But this is not a new dilemma. For years parties all over the world have discovered that governments come into power on a minority vote.  
Even in 2004 when Barisan Nasional won more than 90% of the seats in parliament -- the best performance ever -- they did so on less than two-thirds the votes (64%). In that election, Umno won almost 50% of the total number of parliament seats (109 out of 219) but with only 36% of the votes. That’s right, Umno won almost half the seats but with only 36% of the votes, just slightly over one-third.
You do not need to be a genius to figure out that ultimately it is not votes that count but seats. You can bump up your votes all your want. But if it were not in the right constituency then it would come to nought in the end. You can even grab 60% of the votes, leaving Barisan Nasional with a mere 40%. However, unless those votes are where it counts, Pakatan Rakyat is still not going to form the next federal government.
As it stands now, slightly over half the eligible voters voted in March 2008. That is a problem in itself. No doubt, since March 2008, many new voters have registered to vote. But are these newly registered voters opposition supporters or government supporters? While we must credit the opposition with the effort of registering new voters, the government too has been aggressively registering new voters to even out the odds. 
Granted not all these newly registered ‘government’ voters are genuine. Many may actually be ‘phantom’ voters. Nevertheless, we still cannot deny the fact that these votes are going to go to the government. And the government knows exactly where to place these voters while the opposition effort has been ad hoc and not strategically thought out.
In other words, the opposition is only concerned with registering more new voters in their areas where they are already strong to ensure that they can defend these seats. The government, though, is spreading these voters out to areas where they are weak. Hence the aim of the government is not only to defend their seats but also to capture the seats in opposition strongholds. 
This ‘first past the post’ system of elections is very complicating indeed. It involves a lot of moving voters around. The opposition does not have the ability to do this mainly because they are not in power and hence not in control of the Elections Commission (SPR). It is not Najib Tun Razak or Anwar Ibrahim who is going to determine who will get to form the next federal government. Who the people prefer as the Prime Minister is not the deciding factor. What will decide the next government and hence who will become the Prime Minister post-13th General Election is going to be Malaysia’s Election Commission.
Sigh…I wish I had better news for you today. But then I am not in the business of bringing you good news. I am in the business of telling you as it is. And ‘as it is’ is not always a nice thing to hear. Nevertheless, I do hope over the next few months you will be able to post comments in Malaysia Today telling me how wrong I was about my 2nd April 2012 assessment and that you will be able to whack me to kingdom come.
Anyway, remember this date, 2nd April 2012. You will need to quote this date in the event that Pakatan Rakyat gets to form the next federal government and you want to whack me good and proper for being a prophet of doom whereas I was wrong and Pakatan Rakyat actually does get to form the new federal government.
And to close my most pessimistic piece today, let me conclude by saying that as long as a three-member Pakatan Rakyat is faced with a 14-member Barisan Nasional, then Pakatan Rakyat may find it impossible to form the next federal government. 14 players against three is not an advantage. Pakatan Rakyat may have to consider increasing the number of players.
As it stands now, Pakatan Rakyat is an exclusive club of only three while Barisan Nassional is a larger club of 14 and is prepared to increase its membership if necessary. Pakatan Rakyat, however, is very protective and stingy with the membership to its club. It wants to remain a club of only three members while Barisan Nasional is prepared to open its doors to new members any time.
As I said earlier, increasing your votes will not help. You need to increase your number of seats. And to do this you may need to consider increasing your club membership from three to more than that. Maybe you also need to steal some members from Barisan Nasional, especially those members who are in control of some seats.
In the corporate world they say: if you can’t grow organically then go for acquired growth. That helps. Mergers and acquisitions take organisations to new heights when they reach a plateau.

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