Our politicians must take heed that the old ways of wooing voters will not work any more in the changing political landscape.
IT has become a ritual for our political leaders to ask their members to wake up after each electoral defeat, but Malaysians wonder if these politicians are still on snooze mode even after making their wake-up calls.
The impression we get is that while Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has taken bold initiatives to win back the lost ground following the March 8 general election, some Barisan Nasional leaders are still refusing to see the changing political landscape.
Some are continuing to cling on to outdated ways, even in states controlled by Pakatan Rakyat where they behave like they are still in power simply because the federal government is under Barisan rule. Worse is that there are still component party leaders who refuse to retire.
The last is the most difficult for Najib as Barisan president to handle without being seen to be interfering in the affairs of component parties.
These are leaders who see themselves as indispensable and believe that their parties would crumble without their presence. They forget that we are all mere mortals and that life would still go on tomorrow with or without them.
So, again, we have heard Barisan leaders saying they would carry out post-mortems to find out why they were defeated in the Sibu by-election. Really, many ordinary Malaysians would be able to give the reasons without having lengthy meetings.
Some politicians seemed to be able to give an intelligent explanation on why Barisan lost immediately after the results were out, but we should ask them why they did not share those insights earlier.
Missing the pulse
The worn-out political strategy of announcing financial grants no longer work in urban constituencies because voters see this as a duty of the government.
As taxpayers, they expect the government to make these allocations regularly during the five-year term and not just on the eve of an election.
Politicians should not expect voters to be grateful when this money is given. Why should they be grateful when it’s the people’s money? Where does government money come from? It certainly didn’t drop from the sky.
Helping elderly or rural people with no identity cards after they have lived in Malay sia for decades or, worse, were born here, is good but it is also a double-edged sword because it is reflective of the government’s inefficiency.
As senior MCA leader Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said last week, some Malaysians have demanded to know why it seems to be easier for many Indonesians to get their documents to stay here while there are Malaysians who face numerous problems to get theirs.
If we look at the March 8 results, it looks like many of our political leaders missed the pulse of the urban electorate and increasingly the rural voters. They do not want their elected representatives to be merely “hardworking and can bring development” to their constituencies. Looking at potholes and clogged drains will not win elections now, it’s as simple as that.
Barisan leaders continued to use this approach in Sibu even when voters talked about integrity, credibility, accountability and justice.
They want to hear the leaders talk about stopping corruption, discriminatory policies and the racial divide. They want to hear more about 1Malaysia and how the government plans to see it work beyond slogan shouting.
Such political language should not be the monopoly of the opposition. Barisan leaders should also be talking this talk.
These voices have become increasingly loud and as political leaders, they must have heard and surely want to respond to these alienated voices.
With a general election in about two years’ time, Barisan politicians including those in Sabah and Sarawak had better get out of bed quickly. They cannot remain in snooze mode for much longer.
They cannot take for granted that the postal votes would go to the Barisan. As evident since the March 8 polls, soldiers and policemen have voted for the opposition, as have orang asli voters whose constituencies have now become semi-urban or even urban, as in the Bukit Lanjan state constituency in Selangor, which is located near two shopping complexes.
But the point is this: it is not enough for Barisan politicians to know the reasons and not address them. Post-mortems by political parties often focus on how they lose in elections rather than why.
In the latest edition of the Economist magazine, it was reported about the defeated Labour party in the United Kingdom that “they have concentrated on Labour’s failure to convey its message rather than on its substantive mistakes” and “they have described the defeat rather than properly accounting for it”.
Labour, it said, “needs someone with the gumption to take the ritual post-election hypocrisy beyond platitudes and into harsh truths”.
The story seems the same. The defeated politicians have blamed everyone, from “ungrateful” voters to the media to “barbaric outsiders”, except themselves. Finding scapegoats and sacrificial lambs is an easier way out than to face harsh political realities.
Politicians can choose to ignore the changing political landscape at their own peril because ultimately, it would be the people who would decide. By then, it could be a political wake if these politicians do not wake up.