TWICE the Finance Minster of Malaysia and now a sought after political commentator, Tun Daim Zainuddin, attributed the Barisan Nasional’s poor showing at the May 5 general polls to incorrect strategy.
He told the China Press newspaper that Malaysia’ general elections is a parliamentary election and not a presidential election, adding that Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak’s advisors should be sacked.
“If you associate a vote for BN as a vote for him (Mohd Najib), then BN’s poorer results reflect on him too.
“This is a parliamentary election, not a presidential election. The PM's advisors should be sacked.” he said.
And is Mohd Najib a lame duck Prime Minister and Umno President?
The following is the English transcript of the interview, which covered a wide variety of issues surrounding the outcome of the 13th GE, made available to this blog. I record my appreciation to the China Press for its superb effort and to Tun Daim’s office.
The Day After
1. Tun, what was first in your mind when you first received the full election result? Did you expect it?
I wasn't surprised. At around 12noon the feedback I got was that - BN 141, DAP 38 butmy own assessment was BN between 125 and 135 only.
2. Do you think this election was a fair one? Opposition parties and NGOs still accused BN of misuse the government facilities, and the problematic integrity of the electoral roll.
Of course it is fair. If its not fair how come in Penang and Selangor Pakatan improved on majorities and Federal BN get only 133. These accusations are not new. They said all these even before the elections. I’ve said earlier that they will be saying all these because they know they can't get to Putrajaya.
Read my interviews before this, I said they will be proclaiming to the world they would win and that if they don’t its because they have been robbed and therefore entitled to protest, incite people which is what they are doing now and they want people to go to streets. They want FRUs, water cannons and teargas then CNN, Al Jazeera etc will be back and they are back in the news.
Anwar and Kit Siang are inviting police to arrest them. They want to be arrested. They are totally irresponsible. If you see the recent rallies and that majority of the participants are Chinese, what do you think will happen if one hot-headed Malay organisation wants to organise a counter rally? But Anwar and Kit Siang don't mind, if there is another interracial incident, they would blame BN. If you are willing to sacrifice peace and stability for your ends, what kind of leadership is this?
They say they should be the rightful leaders of this country, yet they defy laws, defy the police, and they have no respect for, and undermine every institutions of government which they say they should helm. What kind of leadership promotes lawlessness and anarchy? What message do you send and what lessons do you teach the young and the impressionable? Leadership comes with responsibility.
There are laws in this country. Go to court, of course, they say courts are not fair, yet these same courts have acquitted Anwar. Again when it’s convenient to them they go to the courts to sue and silence their detractors. They accept where they won and reject where they lost. They are selective. Karpal practices and appeals before this same Court.
Be brave and honest. Accept the results. Karpal says he is happy with the results. PAS has accepted. Azmin is critical of Anwar’s refusal to accept the results and doing these rallies, but don't read too much into his statements. It’s like an old married couple’s quarrel, one party merajuk (sulks) but in the end they are still together.
Anwar is already up to his tricks - putting out feelers to Barisan MPs. He is waiting after the Cabinet appointments for another round of his Sept 16.
Reasons for Poor BN Performance
3. As expected in our last interview, BN managed to retain Putrajaya but couldn't regain the two-third majority. What are the main reasons?
Really you should ask BN. But in my opinion, it’s the wrong strategy. As I’ve said before, this is a parliamentary election, not a presidential election. The PM's advisors should be sacked. If you associate a vote for BN as a vote for him, then BN poorer results reflects on him too. I kept reminding them that those huge numbers at BN’s ceramahs do not translate into votes. You don’t try to fight his (Anwar’s) numbers with your even bigger numbers. Let Anwar be the entertainer (borrowing from The Financial Times). We are not entertainers, we don’t know how to sing, dance and tell jokes. It’s a serious business electing a government, so lets leave this clown’s strategy alone and not play to his game.
If I know, then surely BN knows that the Chinese majority areas were gone. Why waste time and money? As a strategy, you should concentrate on those areas where you lost by slim majorities in 2008 and strengthen the seats you won in 2008. There was also the question of choice of candidates, and for example in Pandan, why be petty?
Many people disputed that there was a Chinese tsunami. But there was, in the sense that Chinese voters voted en block whilst non-Chinese votes were split; but this is their right. This is democracy.
What was disturbing was the reason for the en block votes. Pakatan preached hatred for BN particularly UMNO. DAP have always told the Chinese that they are victims, marginalised; that the cup they have is always half empty; that this is the time to teach MCA and Gerakan a lesson for being under UMNO’s control, that UMNO (and by extension the Malays) were dominant, and this was a Malay-led government, and the Chinese by voting out all the Chinese parties in BN is saying that they have had enough of being bullied by UMNO/ Malays. If this is not racist, I don’t know what is.
Their cybertroopers were at work, 24 hours a day, sending misinformation, spins, rumours, lies, untruths etc. Where were the Banglas? Where was the blackout? How many peoplewhose ink washed off, voted twice? Tun M flew away in a private jet? Lies and lies and the Chinese believe in "ubah" and "Ini kali lah".
I told you if the Chinese rejected Najib's leadership, the rural votes will swing to BN. DAP benefited the most. PAS, I do not know how it is going to reorganise itself. PKR we know practice nepotism, ask Azmin.
As for the Indian votes, only some Indians votes came back to BN. Koh Tsu Koon has announced his retirement. Chua Soi Lek is not seeking re-election. In the West you lose, you retire. Brown retired. Here they are not morally strong to quit. Anwar stays on, Kit Siang stays on, Hadi stays on. Let me remind you, Anwar said he would retire if he failed to get to Putrajaya. Anwar does not keep to his word. He will never retire, until the day he is on his deathbed he would still want to be PM.
Let’s recognize that nowhere in the world is it easy to get a two-third majority. Urban voters everywhere in the world are anti-government. BN's strength lies in the rural areas. Yet too much time and money were wasted in urban areas where the results were almost certain.
4. Chinese votes for opposition even reached over 90%, why? From your observation, why MCA and Gerakan rejected by the Chinese? We still remember in 2004 the situation was totally different.
I have explained at length in the answer above. Chinese votes for the Pakatan reached 90% because they believed in Pakatan’s propaganda. This is at last the chance to reject the Malay-led BN. We saw on polling day many Chinese came out in droves believing that Pakatan was going to win. They were all misled. Pakatan knew that they were not going to get the numbers. Imagine Chinese voting for PAS, when they have seen what was happening in Kedah and Kelantan. Chinese voters were taken for a ride that they were going to make the difference. If Hindraf can affect the 2008 results, imagine what the Chinese with their bigger number can do? This was the line given and they swallowed it. In 2004, Chinese gave the then PM with his clean image a chance but that got to BN’s head and 2008 was the result. In 2013, Pakatan tapped into the Chinese and urban psyche. The Chinese are practical people and if they felt that the votes could go either way, they would not take a chance and choose stability over change; but if they believed that they can change the Government and win, then they did what you see in GE13. But Chinese normally bet on minority horse.
5. By analysing the results, we can see DAP won more seats this time and seats won by PKR and PAS also close to their numbers in 2008. Does it mean Malay votes still split? How about Indian votes?
Malay votes split 4 ways. UMNO, PAS, Keadilan and fence sitters. Lucky for BN, this time most went to UMNO. Less than 50% of Indian voters voted BN.
People’s Real Concerns
6. Why the 1Malaysia plans, ETP, transformation plans did not work and caused BN a bigger loss?
I don't think people reject 1Malaysia, ETP etc. The issues were not these. In all my earlier interviews I had listed the rakyat’s concern. These were and still are 1) corruption 2) good governance 3) security 4) education 5) inflation 6) urban poor 7) young graduates. Government instead focused on giving handouts. You give dinner once, people thank you. Give them five times and they think you are trying to buy their votes.
7. Even though you have given your warning, but the so-called Chinese Tsunami was so big to be stopped. But, is it fair to blame the Chinese for BN's not so good victory?
I have explained the Chinese tsunami. Of course, Pakatan have to say it is not Chinese tsunami, otherwise they will be held responsible for this racial divide. Are they denying the Chinese voted en block and Malay votes were split? No one is blaming the Chinese, but this what it is. As I said they were misled and they voted Pakatan but again it is their right to buy into that argument and voted to kick the BN out.
8. How to change their minds or should BN given up Chinese by promoting the Ketuanan Melayu sprit to rely more on the support of Malays?
You can always try and you must try to change their minds. You cannot give up on nearly 30% of your fellow citizens. But you have to address issues as in my answer to Question 6.
Ketuanan Melayu was when the Malays fought against Malayan Union. Ketuanan Melayu was in the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948. After 1957 and later in 1963, there is constitutional Malaysia. All races have accepted the Constitution. It is a fine and well-balanced document. Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore too had accepted this document. The Constitution protects all citizens. We are all Malaysians. As I said, I'm born a Malay, you are born a Chinese. We don't chose to be Malay or Chinese, but you and I choose to be Malaysians. That is our choice. If I don't like to be a Malaysian, I can choose to be something else also. So let us stay united and work hard and sincerely and make sure the country continues to prosper in peace.
9. Najib has offered a “reconciliation" plan. How serious is he? In addition, if this plan is necessary, how should Najib deal with it?
I am glad he offered reconciliation. He must be serious. You don't make statements you don't mean. You are a leader. But I read Pakatan has rejected his overtures, they talk about unity but do not practice it. Instead they offer preset conditions. Are they sincere? As leaders, the country must come first.
10. How is this so-called process of reconciliation ever going to take place when chauvinists and radicals still there to give their provoking remarks?
We, the rakyat must reject the chauvinists and the radicals. Government must take action against them. Rakyat must show support against these people. Country must come first. Whatever you may think about the Malays, they have shown that they reject extremists. They rejected Perkasa, Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifly Nordin.
Najib A Lame Duck PM?
11. Some people say Najib is a lame duck Prime Minister, he has not only has to think of how to regain the support of non-Malays but has to guard against the wolves in his party. Will he encounter any problem when party election takes place this year?
I have retired. I don't know the mood is in the party. He has to explain to party members what went wrong. Is he going to be a lame duck PM? Cameron in UK, Gilliard in Australia, Mohan Singh in India so far are ok even though in their cases they are ruling on razor thin majority.
UMNO has to remain united if it wants to get the support of Malays. Strengthen your rural support and the rest of the Malays will respect UMNO. If he explains to UMNO what went wrong then I think UMNO will accept and offer their support. It will take a bit of time with the Divisions and he has to make sure they continue to support him and he has to tell UMNO members that only UMNO is their saviour. I believe UMNO members will give him another chance. Those disloyal, you must punish them. But prove with evidence. You have the Opposition to deal with you don’t need enemies in the blanket. You don’t need over 3 millions members if they did not work or vote for you. It is better to have a smaller but committed membership who love the party and want what is best of it. For far too long, UMNO has had members who placed self-interest above the party.
12. Please analyse the result for Selangor. Far from what we expected, BN lost more seats and more popular votes this time despite of thousand good efforts had been put?
Selangor was a disaster. When I got feedback on the problems on the ground, I sent many messages to the leadership. I spoke to Zain (Mohd Zain Mohamed, the BN Selangor Election Director). He assured me of victory, totally ignoring the voices on the ground. His own Ketua Pemuda stood against him and so many ketua bahagians campaigned against him.
I think Zain was a wrong choice. He was dropped from Cabinet by Najib because obviously he didn’t think much of his ability and then you appoint him as Selangor UMNO Secretary. I don't understand Najib’s logic. When you all asked me at the last interview, I said there were problems of wrong candidates. Ketua Bahagians’ were not happy. Among UMNO (members) sabotage was everywhere. I told Zain a list of state seats that were in trouble. Zain said yes a bit of problem but BN would win. In all those seats that were in my list, BN lost. With wrong candidates not going to the ground, ignoring divisional chiefs, not visiting your members and voters, sabotage, you couldn't win.
When I was in Negeri Sembilan campaigning on Friday night, I got a message that Bukit Selambau state seat under the Merbok Parlimentary seat was in trouble. I got back to KL at 2 am and a few hours later, early on Saturday morning, I flew to Kedah. They were still quarrelling about the state candidate, even when it’s one day before polling. I told them they were crazy. Just vote BN. Told them they had half a day left to campaign and go together and campaign and be seen to be united. They lost by 500 votes because they closed their pondok panas by 4pm, confident that they had won. I smsed you by noon that BN won Merbok but the Indians there have to quarrel even at the last minute about candidates and we lost. We are our own worst enemies.
13. As well as in Penang. Before 5 May, BN seemed to have some hope as the 1Malaysia welfare group had organized many free dinners around Penang and free concert. They tried to attract the voters with money and presents. But, all effort proved useless. Why?
These people are amateurs. They are silly people. They think they are clever and throw money around. Better give to charity. Why BN allowed stupid events like these? People are insulted because they knew you thought they could be bought with money, concerts and dinners. So they came to relax, have free makan and be entertained. This is an election. It’s a serious matter. Let Anwar be the entertainer. (China Press)