Malaysiakini Letter

Why election predictions are at odds with Harapan's optimism

Karamjit Gill  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | The frenzy of predictions for soccer games as the weekend approaches is nothing compared to the zeal that’s buzzing nationwide for the upcoming general elections. Termed the “Battle of Titans”, it will be interesting to see if GE14 lives up to the hype created.

Merdeka Center is back with its Nostradamus-like prophecies. Malaysia’s independent pollster predicts that BN will prevail in GE14 despite losing grounds of popular support.

Their survey predicts that Pakatan Harapan would win 43.7 percent of the popular vote while BN would obtain 40.3 percent of the popular vote. In the last general election, the opposition coalition had 3.49 percent more of the popular vote compared to BN. In predictions for GE14, the difference in predicted popular vote is 3.4 percent.

A Selangor government-owned think-tank, Institut Darul Ehsan (IDE), predicted that Harapan would retain Selangor’s legislative assembly but could lose their two-thirds majority, as BN is expected to win more seats in the state. Can we draw anything from these predictions?

In 2013, Merdeka Center ran their surveys too. Prior to the elections, they estimated Pakatan Rakyat to win 89 seats and BN 85 seats. 46 parliamentary seats were labeled a “toss-up” that could have gone any way, and another 2 would fall to parties aligned to neither BN nor Pakatan.

What was the final result? They were spot on with regards to the number of seats won by Pakatan, as Pakatan did indeed obtain 89 seats. However, BN outdid the predictions by obtaining 133 seats.

Despite the large turnouts in rallies for Harapan and its chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s revelation that he is optimistic judging from attendances, how is it the predictions speak a different story?

Firstly, this is because most of Harapan’s rallies are held in areas where they triumphed in the previous poll. People in those areas are not going to add to the existing tally anyway. Remember, the huge turnouts were there even during the last elections that everyone thought BN was going to be washed away in.

Secondly, one has to consider the fact that PAS is not part of Harapan. It would be foolish to assume PAS is insignificant. Smaller crowd turnouts in street rallies after DAP divorced PAS cannot be taken for granted. While it is true that PAS would stand no chance in urban areas, why not take a drive to the rural areas and witness for yourself whether PAS or Harapan boasts more support?

Thirdly, the redelineation exercise that recently concluded will only favour BN. In the 1999 general election under Mahathir’s leadership, BN lost its two-thirds majority and only obtained 56.5 percent of the popular votes, which is a drop of over 8 percent compared to the previous elections. Following a redelineation exercise prior to GE11, BN got back their two-thirds majority in the 2004 polls, which is also partly due to people rejoicing over Mahathir’s resignation.

In the past, we saw rowdy behaviour from BN supporters. Unruliness and lack of respect in their mannerisms disgusted us. Today, we are seeing the same kind of individuals supporting Harapan. The slanders and disparaging remarks made on social media to anybody that speak a different language to Harapan has turned many BN supporters into sleeper cells.

Even national icons like badminton player Lee Chong Wei and Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes are being personally attacked. It is disgusting to see individuals who have attributed absolutely nothing to the glory of the country personally slandering those who continuously flutter our flag internationally. These people completely lack the finesse the opposition once boasted.

Mahathir’s lack of apathy towards those who are not in his favour will work against Harapan too. Firstly, Mahathir’s visit to the late former PAS president Fadzil Noor’s grave 16 years after his demise has not worked out well, especially in the Malay heartland. Subsequently, he wanted to visit the grave of late PAS spiritual leader Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

After slandering the faith and ways of the late Nik Aziz in the past, it came as no surprise that the family pulled down the shutter on Mahathir. Dr Mahathir is a political chameleon who would go to any extent to win.

The youth of today may not know him, but those of us who lived through his tyranny will never cast the ballot to favour him. In less than 48 hours, we shall see if Merdeka Center’s prediction is right again. I am sure many of the older generation are eagerly waiting to celebrate Mahathir’s first defeat, rather than caretaker prime minister Najib Abdul Razak’s victory.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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