The Rural Battlefield

By Douglas Tan

Over the past couple of days, the Merdeka Center appears to be publishing a lot of their findings, dampening optimism that Pakatan Rakyat could potentially win enough parliamentary seats in the 13th General Election to form a new government for the first time in our nation’s history.

The study released by political scientist Wong Chin Huat presented on August 9th, would put Opposition gains to 100 federal seats up from 75, but short of the 112 seats needed to form the government. Looking deeper into the study, one can see that the biggest hurdle for the opposition to overcome is the rural folk, where Barisan Nasional continues to have a strong foothold.

One of the studies published mentioned that urban areas are more likely to vote for PR candidates, but rural areas would favour BN candidates. This is especially true for areas with low or no Internet penetration. Even in rural areas which do have Internet connection, those who use the Internet may not necessarily be interested in political news or access alternative media.

In a country in which the printed media has been monopolised by BN since independence, to tell those who have been relying on this medium for donkey years would find it very difficult to accept that they are publishing anything other than the truth.

For many, it is important to maintain status quo, as many worry with a change of government, there may be potential repercussions on their daily lives. Rural folk may not even care what is happening down in the cities because it would not affect them.

There is also the element of apathy, especially when the Merdeka Center came out to say that the effect of Bersih 2.0 in the rural areas were minimal at best. This is predominantly as a result of the government controlled media portraying the demonstrators as hooligans, but also due to the fact that it is engrained in our culture to accept the status quo ie. accepting what we are told without question.

The fight for electoral reform, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms appear to only gather lukewarm responses at best from the rural folk. There are those who perpetuate the view that we should not even get ourselves into trouble in the first place by questioning the authorities. If we keep our heads down, and mind our own business, we shall continue to live in peace.

However, I do not believe for a moment that these people do not care about their nation. For 54 years, they have believed that their government always has their best interests at heart, whereas rampant corruption and misuse of government funds continue to go unreported.

The BN government know that the best way to win and retain seats in these rural areas, is to keep them in the dark as much as possible, and throw some occasional goodies at them to keep them happy and content. 

Now comes the time for awakening. Pakatan Rakyat need to get their machinery out to these areas to talk to the people, make the people understand, and show them that PR can be a capable and competent government. The grass-roots support in these areas cannot be underestimated. BN strongholds can fall, as seen during the Sarawak elections, and the hard work and faith must be maintained.

For all the screaming, shouting and finger pointing which is done in the cities, we must not forget the real battle must be fought in rural heartland, where they are the true king-makers in the coming elections. Only when they are on board with the rest of us, can we see begin change for our beloved nation. 

Everyone must do their part during the ‘balik kampung’ period over Hari Raya to spread the word and the truth to their kampungs, and urge the need for change in our nation. We are all responsible for future and progress of our country, and God willing, we shall see change take place for the better.

Salam Berpuasa.


DOUGLAS TAN is a DAP member from the Segambut Branch. He blogs at