(The Economist) - THE smell of fresh paint in Taman Sentosa, one of the poorer districts of Malaysia’s capital, can mean only one thing: elections are at hand. And lest anyone forget to whom they owe their good fortune, prominent signs up outside every block remind them: the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government.
THE smell of fresh paint in Taman Sentosa, one of the poorer districts of Malaysia’s capital, can mean only one thing: elections are at hand.
The walls of the numerous public-housing blocks in the area are gleaming, all painted within the past year. The redecoration of one block, 1A Pinang, was finished only on January 3rd, and the lucky residents got some shiny new guttering as well. The caretaker says it is the first time the place had received any attention since it was built 20 years ago. And lest anyone forget to whom they owe their good fortune, prominent signs up outside every block remind them: the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government. The paint-job is a federally funded project in an opposition MP’s constituency.
A general election must be called before the end of April, and it might be the tightest ever. The BN has never lost an election since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. Last time round, however, in 2008, the party suffered its greatest rebuff at the polls, losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority as well as five out of 12 contested state governments. This time the opposition People’s Justice Party (PKR) and its allies, led by the veteran Anwar Ibrahim, hope to go one better, so the BN is leaving nothing to chance.
Taman Sentosa is in the Lembah Pantai constituency in central Kuala Lumpur, and what happens there will decide the fate of the election as a whole. It had always been a BN stronghold but was lost by a narrow margin in the electoral meltdown of 2008. The new MP was Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of Mr Anwar, who won by just 2,895 votes. If the BN can wrest back this seat they will be safe; if the PKR win again they will know they have a chance of ending the BN’s run in power.
It has thus become a totemic race, and Nurul Izzah believes that the BN are not only deploying paint brushes to give them the edge. The constituency used to have 149 postal votes, but the total has now jumped to 2,180, she says—all policemen, traditionally BN supporters. As in other urban constituencies the overall number of voters has risen since 2008, by about 15,000. Many of these live elsewhere but have registered to vote in Lembah Pantai, and Nurul Izzah claims that hundreds of these are known BN voters, which could make a big difference in a tight race.
Read more at: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21571191-general-election-due-shortly-and-first-time-it-could-be-close-scrapping-every-vote?fsrc=rss|asi