Come November 20, the day Melaka goes to the polls, just whom will the Chinese vote for?
But in the first place will they go out and vote?
That second question I have to ask because Ilham Center executive director Hisommudin Bakar tells me the mood of Chinese voters this time is, no, not lukewarm but rather cold. Very cold actually.
Research outfit Ilham Center has teams on the ground in Melaka since October.
“Usually Chinese voters would be upfront and critical in responding to our questionnaire, but this time it’s different,” says Hisommudin.
How different? This time, he says, Chinese voters tend to sidestep or avoid totally questions posed by Ilham researchers.
Matter of fact, according to the Ilham man, Chinese voters give the impression that they will not be taking part in the election which they deem as “unnecessary”.
“And they are also not encouraging family members residing outside the state to come home to vote,” according to Hisommudin.
This does not bode well for Pakatan Harapan. More about this in a while.
Why the “cold reception”? Because the Chinese community is worried the election will trigger a surge in COVID-19 cases, as what happened during the Sabah polls last year.
An upsurge is bad for the health of business, to put it plainly.
Says Hisommudin, “That apart, there is this feeling of unhappiness or disagreement among Chinese voters on the move by politicians to take as candidates people whose antics forced this election to be held.”
That would mean Pakatan Harapan fielding defectors who caused the downfall of the state government, hence the election.
That is unpleasant news for PH. And as said earlier, a low voter turnout, especially among Chinese voters, is not something PH is looking forward to.
The Chinese community voted overwhelmingly in PH’s favor in GE14 back in 2018.
However, the people who voted for PH three years ago are still sympathetic towards PH. Not only that. They are still angry at the way PH was toppled at federal level in February 2020. Yes the bitterness over the Sheraton Move lingers on.
And there is nothing more satisfying than for the 2018 PH voters to punish the “perpetrators” at the ballot boxes and give PH back their mandate taken away “very cruelly” from them.
If such an “assumption” (theoretically speaking) is true, then PH’s biggest task in Melaka apparently is to coax the Chinese (and all voters as well) to come out in numbers and head to the polling stations.
Hisommudin does not see a drastic switch happening should Chinese voters decide to participate in the electoral process. But assuming (this is also theoretically speaking) the Chinese voters do turn away from PH, whom will they turn to?
Sad it may be, but the reality is that racial politics and race-based political parties feature big time in our political scene. Many (I will not say all) people tend to vote for “our kind of people parties to fight for our cause”.
Against such a backdrop, options for Chinese voters would be MCA from Barisan Nasional and Gerakan from Perikatan Nasional, if they turn their backs on PH.
BN is not what it used to be. I shouldn’t be saying this as you or rather we know this all too well.
At one point, the coalition boasted up to 14 communal political parties as components. With Umno helming it naturally.
Now Umno is still at the helm but BN now only has four components to show.
And MCA now, (although it still wants to be known as a senior partner in the shrunken coalition) is not the MCA of the days of Tan Cheng Lock, Tan Siew Sin or even Ling Liong Sik.
Years before GE14, the party was seen as being subservient to the dominant Umno. It grew weaker from 2008 (some say even before that) and has not recovered till this day despite the bravado.
Its presence in the PN government and currently in the Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration is rightly or wrongly described by many as “mere window dressing”.
As said earlier, Umno still dominates BN, and looking at a Chinese perspective I do not see MCA standing up against the Malay party.
And Umno is being Umno. You know what I mean. Just look at the recent Budget tabled by the Ismail government.
The breakaway from PAS, at least for the Melaka election, will do nothing to Umno being its old self. This despite remarks by Vice President Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin that breaking away from PAS and ending the Muafakat Nasional partnership would return Umno to the “moderate, multiculturalism and progressive” path.
As for Gerakan, well, it is in a far weaker situation now than MCA.
That is a no-brainer. The fact that it is in PN has done nothing to change that. If anything else, they joining PN has only further tarnished their image. Credibility wise that is.
PN is helmed by Bersatu but the dominating or rather empowering force is PAS.
Bersatu is a Malay-first party. No surprise there. After all, it has its roots from Umno.
PAS, we know what it is all about. No elaboration needed. Its “brand of Islam” can make even many a Malay Muslim cringe.
Now, do you see Gerakan standing up and be countered in PN? With Bersatu and PAS for company?
So, what choice do Chinese voters have in Melaka?
Well, they can skip the election and miss the chance to have a say as to who will rule over them.
At least register your stand. Or they can participate in the vote casting and choose BN, PN, PH or the many independent candidates.
Chinese voters, the ball as they say, is at your feet.
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)