Hornbill Unleashed

May 10, 2013

Umno’s analysis of election outcome outdated and inflammatory

Filed under: Politics,PRU 13 Election — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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ge13 huCampbell White

As someone once said, history is written by the victors. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, after retaining office but losing the majority of the nation’s voters’ support, described what had just happened as a “Chinese tsunami.” This is a fallacy because it was not only the Chinese, but many Malays and Indians who also turned away from Barisan Nasional.

UMR’s pre-election survey had presaged what happened on Election Day when we reported that while Pakatan Rakyat’s supporters were relatively evenly Malay and Chinese (with some Indian support); Barisan Nasional’s support was coming overwhelming from the Malays only. The result of this voting pattern is that we now see a government elected by a minority of Malaysians that essentially represents a section of just one ethnic group.

What is most interesting for me, as a social psychologist is how the “blame” for dividing the nation has been shovelled on to the Chinese community almost exclusively; ignoring that many of those who voted Pakatan Rakyat came from other races. According to defeated Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ali Rustam the “Chinese tsunami” happened because “they (the Chinese) are very racist.”

A moment of self-reflection at the divisive policies and rhetoric of recent years, not to mention BN effectively endorsing open racists such as Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin might produce a more accurate understanding of what drove the minority voters away. Leaving this aside though, this argument ignores or trivialises those Malays who support the opposition. As a prominent Malay opposition figure once said: “It’s as if I’m not Malay enough.”

Social Identity Theory, a prominent psychological theory which posits that group membership forms an important part of individuals’ self-esteem, is useful in explaining the attitude of some Umno members. When a group feels under threat, in order to protect itself members of the group start to perceive themselves as more homogenous in terms of attitudes and beliefs. They draw sharp demarcations between group members’ beliefs and those outside the group. Furthermore, to maintain the view of the “in-group” as homogenous it may be necessary to regard those who don’t conform to norms of the “in-group” as not authentic, or even as outsiders or traitors.

In reality, Malays are not homogenous and Umno’s analysis of the election outcome is both outdated and inflammatory. From a Social Identity perspective we could say it describes two kinds of Malays: secure Malays and insecure Malays. Secure Malays are confident with their own standing and do not feel that their ethnic group (including religion) is under threat. They tend to emphasise tolerant and inclusive aspects of their culture and religion rather than exclusivist aspects. Insecure Malays, on the other hand, believe they need handouts, special rights and to restrict other religions and defend Islam because they perceive that their own culture and religion is under threat in their own land.

Traditionally, Malays from the eastern states of the peninsula have fallen into the category of Secure Malays. They may not be wealthy but in their own states the number of Chinese and Indians are relatively small and do not pose an obvious threat. This is why church and temple approvals do not raise the anxiety sometimes seen on the west coast, and you can find some of the largest temple complexes despite the population being more than 90 per cent Malay Muslim. It also explains why, contrary to the myth making, the Pakatan Rakyat share of the parliamentary vote in these two states increased between 2008 and 2013. These rural Malays swung away from Barisan Nasional.

Perhaps a more recent development is the tendency for urban Malays with higher levels of education to form a new subset of Secure Malays. These Malays are confident in their own abilities and believe they can compete on a level playing field not only with Chinese, but globally. The impact of this can be seen in majority Malay seats like Shah Alam and Kuantan where progressive but unambiguously Malay candidates from Pakatan Rakyat won increased majorities. The entire state of Selangor is further evidence of this trend, where Pakatan Rakyat increased its majority. It is this trend which will have dire consequences for Umno unless they modify their race-centric approach. While it may be seen as ironic by some; Barisan Nasional’s past economic successes in creating a Malay middle class has led to an ever-growing Malay populace that rejects traditional values such as subservience to leaders and embraces tolerance and democracy.

The reason Barisan Nasional won GE13 is that it still retains a substantial category of Malay support: those with lower education, lower incomes and those who live on the west coast of the peninsula and in Sabah and Sarawak. These are the Malays who Barisan Nasional regards as the authentic Malays; those who are “more equal than others”, politically speaking. This support base is no longer numerous enough to win the popular vote but thanks to distorted electoral boundaries, it has been enough to deliver a majority of seats, this time.

Gerrymanders are not a uniquely Malaysian phenomenon; in Australia until quite recently similar gerrymanders helped keep conservative governments in office in several states despite sometimes losing the popular vote. Those on the progressive side of politics knew that these gerrymanders would never be removed until they managed to win over sufficient voters in rural areas to win office.

That is the reality for Pakatan Rakyat too — they must learn how to identify and communicate the right messages to rural Malaysians in Sabah, Sarawak and to Malays in parts of Perak and Johor outside the state capitals of Ipoh and Johor Baru. If they can do so, and if Barisan Nasional doesn’t reform, then #inikalilah — the reformist Twitter tag which translates as “it’s time” — will truly come at the next election in 2018.



  1. You forget to mention al the cheating before, during and after the election. This is like (from very trustworthy reports in social media)
    – multiple voting possible because Malay citizen can have multiple Passports with different numbers
    – short term passports handed out to foreign workers, some of them especially flew in for voting
    – foreign workers brought by bus to the polling stations – nobody knows them there and nobody knows whether they have been voting somewhere else before …
    – full boxes with votes transported in private cars or by taxi to the polling stations
    – full boxes of votes even trown down from a helicpter in the night after the election close to a polling and counting station, where obviously the BN was going to loose
    – many electricity blackouts during the counting process, and after the light comes back suddenly there are more boxes of votes and mor voters lists …

    Strange things happen …

    Comment by Dieter — May 10, 2013 @ 8:43 PM | Reply

  2. Register more youths as voters and make sure they come home to vote. Those Dayaks working in Johor. and other states but never have the chance to come home to vote should be registered as voters in Johor or the respective states using their existing address. Pakatan Rakyat should make sure Dayaks who have yet to be given Mycards fight for their rights and also make sure the Indonesian and Bangladeshi workers in Sarawak do not possess Mycards at all.

    Comment by Augustine William — May 10, 2013 @ 6:58 PM | Reply

  3. By your analysis, Umno has every incentive to keep those insecure malays insecure.
    The only way to do so is to keep them away from alternative media, deprive them good education, make them forever dependent on subsidies.

    These malays will continue to lose out economically by Umno and forever blame others for the plight.
    Umno is happy to do so in order to maintain their power base.

    Sad for these malays.
    I hope they will be awakened soon by Pakatan.

    Comment by Jaime — May 10, 2013 @ 5:17 PM | Reply

  4. Kita bukan guna Sistem Presiden…kita guna sistem kerusi…siapa paling banyak kerusi menang..kalau sisitem presiden lain, kalau u popular u jadi presiden…..terima hakikat

    Comment by 686000 — May 10, 2013 @ 3:38 PM | Reply

  5. 260,000 popular votes speak louder than words … what more do you want?

    Comment by tigeryk — May 10, 2013 @ 9:51 AM | Reply

  6. any human race who DONT learnt & avoid mistake made by ancestors/ political parties, could NEVER progress. but still can temporaly enjoying good life style with “tongkat” which would not last long, ultimately loose out in the challenging world, lagging behind other Races, & under the influance of Father of Racial crying kena CHEATED, & the Father of ALL racial became US44b RICHES.

    Comment by nainai — May 10, 2013 @ 7:45 AM | Reply

  7. No use lahhhh ? In five year time, there will be even more stupid Dayak squators coming to vote at GE 14. Have you seen the number of children they are having.
    There are only two solutions:
    1) One person, one vote.
    2) Give each family one thousand ringgits out of our pocket at GE14.

    Or else, the fate of all Malaysians will be in the hands of the stupid Dayak squators for ever and ever.
    The other idea is to let Sarawak and Sabah go. Give them independence.

    Comment by Sarawakian in Disgust — May 10, 2013 @ 6:33 AM | Reply

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