Malaysian Police Ready Two Election Plans
For the first time ever, according to sources in Kuala Lumpur, the Royal Police have formulated two contingency plans for the night of Malaysia's 13th general election, expected to be on April 27 or after.
The first, a source said, is "how to whisk the Prime Minister from the Putra World Trade Center where the Barisan Nasional is holding its election night celebration, back to Sri Perdana, the Prime Minister's residence, safely in the event that the Barisan Nasional loses, or if there is trouble." The second, the source said, is how to bring Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim from his home to the palace to be sworn in if the opposition were to win.
Implicit in both of those plans are questions whether there will be violence started by the losing side.
Both plans are unprecedented because there has never been a time in the 57-year history of the country when anybody thought the opposition might actually win. It still may not. But the fact that the plans are in place is an indication that even the police think the election is too close to call.
A call to ACP Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf, the assistant director of management for public relations at the national police headquarters at Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur, to ask about the plans went unanswered.
"How it will pan out is something else - whether Anwar is allowed to be sworn in if he wins, etc." a source told Asia Sentinel. "But the fact that they have these contingency plans in place would suggest that despite the confidence shown by Najib and UMNO leaders, it is going to be a very close race."
Other sources say that the mood inside the "war room," or election headquarters at the United Malays National Organization is brimming with confidence. "I don't know why," an independent source said. "They must know something."
Both the Barisan Nasional, or national ruling coalition, and Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party opposition coalition, have been campaigning feverishly for months. However, a number of factors are strongly in favor of the Barisan, particularly in the way the districts are laid out. The below chart of previous elections, prepared by Greg Lopez for the New Mandala website, based at the Australian National University's College of Asia, shows that since the country became a nation, the Barisan's popular vote has always run well below the number of seats it captured in Parliament.
Even though it only won 50.14 percent of the votes in the 2008 national election to the opposition's 46.41 percent, the Barisan managed to retain 63.1 percent of the seats against only 36.9 percent for the opposition. In 1969, the year that disaster struck in the form of murderous race riots, the Barisan actually gained only 49.3 percent of the popular vote against 50.7 percent for the opposition, but it still won 66 percent of the parliamentary seats against 34 percent for the opposition.
The districts haven't been reapportioned. So in order for the opposition to actually take control of the Parliament, the opposition probably must win a substantially larger number of the votes.
If that were to happen, it would be a landslide of epic proportions. In order to attempt to stop it from happening, the Prime Minister Najib and the Barisan Nasional have poured an estimated US$2 billion into what a cynic might describe as outright bribes to the electorate - much of it in the form of cash handouts but more in mortgage relief, salary raises for the military, civil servants, employees of the judiciary and just about anyone else remotely connected with government, including 4,000 workers of the national energy company Petronas, who received RM1,000 cash bonuses when they showed up at a rally put on by Najib and the forces of the Barisan.
Against that, and against an undeniably healthy economy that is delivering 5.6 percent economic growth, the Barisan is faced with the outright collapse of the component parties, the Malaysian Chinese Association, Gerakan, and the Malaysian Indian Congress, which most observers believe won't get more than a handful of sets in Parliament, and which means that UMNO will probably end up governing the country by itself.
The two opposing sides expect to closely split the 165 parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia. The two East Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan control 57 of the total 222 seats. The common wisdom is that if the two sides are deadlocked in Peninsular Malaysia, the two states hold the key to the future for both opposition and Barisan. Both of the current governments are believed to be in control of enough votes to win their respective statehouses.
Most political observers believe that given the shifting loyalties in the two states, the parties will be open to the blandishments of the competing Barisan and Pakatan in the form of promises of Increased royalties from oil and timber, and increased development for both states, which are the poorest in the country, for whichever side the two choose.
But in the past few days that has been complicated by renewed allegations of huge scandals on the part of both chief ministers, Abdul Taib Mahmud of Sarawak and Musa Hasan in Sabah. An NGO, Global Witness, staged a filmed sting on Taib's representatives in which it was alleged that the Sarawak chief received billions of ringgit in kickbacks over timber and land deals that have denuded the North Borneo state. Musa as well has been named as having deposited millions of ringgit in Swiss banks through nominees.
That raises the question whether Anwar and his three component parties, who have campaigned for years on a reform platform, can actually do business with the two scandal-scarred ministers and their parties in the wake of the election.
The Barisan also faces the headwinds of some truly massive scandals which have been the focus of widespread reporting in the indefatigable internet press, which largely forms the opposition press, since the mainstream media is owned by all three of the major political parties.
Two of those scandals have resulted in trials that continue at the moment, including corruption in the construction of the Port Klang multimodal port, which could cost as much as RM12.45 billion if the port is forced to default on all of its loans, which appears possible.
Ling Liong Sik, the longtime former head of the MCA, is on trial in a Kuala Lumpur Courtroom now over the affair. In another case, which has gained the name "Cattlegate," in which the husband of the former head of the women's wing of the party, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, then Malaysia's minister for women, family and community development, has been accused of misusing huge amounts of money from a loan to set up the National Feedlot Corporation, a scandal-plagued scheme to slaughter as many as 60,000 cattle annually but fell far short of that goal.