Pakatan claims wins a referendum on Najib

By Lee Wei Lian (The Malaysian Insider)

PETALING JAYA, April 8 — Pakatan Rakyat’s massive wins in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau are a clear referendum on the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government’s divisive politics and its new prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

They also said it was proof that the opposition has delivered its campaign promises and a major political paradigm shift with the people strong in their support for the electoral pact since Election 2008.

“The by-election was a referendum on him. Their entire line of campaigning was that this new leader must be given a chance,” opposition de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.

“The entire BN campaign strategy, other than the Malay agenda, is that we have a new leader who is committed to champion the cause of Malays and all races, in fact One Malaysia but that has crumbled.”

He said BN and Najib must reflect on their massive losses and undertake necessary reforms as Pakatan could form the government if snap elections were called soon.

“Normally, when a new prime minister comes in, the sentiment shifts but it did not happen this time,” he said, adding this was a major change in Malaysian thinking.

The former deputy prime minister pointed out that when former prime ministers Tun Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Ahmad Abdullah Badawi came into power, they managed to enjoy enormous support from the public.

“When Abdullah came in, the entire opposition was almost crippled, but when Najib came, we enjoy the fact that we are getting stronger,” Anwar said, referring to the results of Election 2004 when Abdullah received the largest mandate of 90 per cent to Najib’s dismal debut.

Najib succeeded Abdullah as prime minister last Friday and has promised reforms, releasing 13 ISA detainees in his first day of office and lifting a ban on two party newspapers apart from saying he believed in a freer press.

Abdullah’s trenchant critic Mahathir has endorsed Najib’s administration by rejoining Umno and campaigning for them in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.

Ironically, BN’s only victory in yesterday’s by-election was in Batang Ai in Sarawak which Mahathir did not visit. But Anwar questioned the Batang Ai results saying it was marred by irregularities.

“We have proof of cheating and ballot boxes that were thrown away," he says. “We will study what transpired.”

The Elections Comission however, said it was past practice to take the ballot boxes to the counting centres and said that PKR officials could follow the vehicles transporting the ballot boxes. “But how can we follow helicopters and boats?” responded Anwar.

He also said that Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s huge victory in Bukit Gantang has shown that the people of Perak want the state assembly dissolved for a fresh election.

“Campaigning against the full might of the BN leadership, his victory is a telling sign of the waning support for the current government,” Anwar added.

Despite the loss, the opposition chief remains confident of doing well in the Sarawak state elections that must be held by 2011.

He pointed out that Pakatan had won decisively and increased its majority in four by-elections since Election 2008, adding it won in both Malay strongholds and mixed ethnicity areas that reflected their increasing support.

“Pakatan Rakyat has established a new standard in governance and accountability in Malaysia. Our leaders have worked tirelessly to exceed the expectations that the people have of us, he said, adding much is still needed to be done and leaders had to be held to the highest standards.

His protege Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin had to quit as Penang deputy chief minister last month under a cloud of allegations linked to illegal quarrying activities.

But the Permatang Pauh MP crowed about Pakatan’s victories which came days after Najib became the country’s sixth prime minister. Anwar had boldly predicted forming the federal government last September 16 with defections but it has come to naught.

“The reason is simple. In governing five states for just one year the Pakatan Rakyat has delivered on campaign promises. We have created jobs and attracted foreign investment. We have provided valuable new social services to people including health care for senior citizens and more investments in education for children.

“Our Chief Minister and Mentris Besar are discussing ways that the Pakatan states can work together to face the challenges of a global recession,” he added.

Anwar also reaffirmed that Sarawak remained a front-line state for PKR and Pakatan despite the loss, which he blamed on “irregularities in the voting procedure including possible tampering with ballot boxes”.

“The support that we detected among the Ibans in Sarawak confirms that the state is ripe for taking. In this campaign the issues of land rights, development and marginalization have clearly been highlighted and Pakatan Rakyat offers the only credible solution for these problems,” he said.

In a statement, Lim, said the twin defeats represented a double “no confidence” vote on Najib as prime minister and Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the “illegitimate and usurper Perak Mentri Besar”.

He called the wins “a second political tsunami in Malaysian electoral politics in 13 months” and the increased majorities a clear endorsement of the previous “political tsunami” in Election 2008.

“What happened in the 12th General Elections in March last year was neither accidental nor a fluke, to disappear like fireworks in the skies, but a major political paradigm shift representing the deep-seated and widely-held aspirations of Malaysians regardless of race or religion for democratic change,” said the Ipoh Timur MP.

“The verdicts in the Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau by-elections are loud and clear, that UMNO and Barisan Nasional had failed in the past 13 months to heed the message of the 12th General Election results.”

He also said the by-elections were a multiple referendum as it rejected the power grab in Perak, Najib’s crisis of credibility and integrity as prime minister due to allegations against him, a rejection of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s return to politics and an endorsement of Pakatan Rakyat as the movement of the future.

Meanwhile, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said Najib must adopt six reform measures to make his slogan work, including banning race-based parties, abolishing restrictive laws, fight corruption, provide subsidies direct to the people instead of industries and institutionalise democracy.

“The Prime Minister must boldly admit that it was wrong to effect a change in the state government through unconstitutional methods and not through elections,” said Guan Eng, who is also Penang chief minister.

“Bukit Gantang voters have endorsed calls for fresh elections by giving the rightful Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Nizar a bigger majority. The voters in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau should be commended for their courage and love for democracy by supporting PR’s inclusive multi-racial approach of freedom, justice, equal opportunity and truth,” the Bagan MP added.