A change is gonna come

All eyes will turn to Borneo. It is a mighty ask to expect a lion’s share of the parliamentary seats there, but Pakatan might broach the 20-seat mark, though it might end up being 15. That would reduce BN’s majority from Borneo (31 seats in Sarawak, 25 in Sabah) from 54 in 2008 to a manageable 26.

Praba Ganesan, The Malaysian Insider

An important time is arriving in Malaysia, and it does not matter if you are for it or not; that’s not material anymore. The growing fear is that the nation is about to enter this phase without a seat belt.

History students in the distant future will love 2011. When in doubt in a class history quiz, 2011 is, as they say in basketball, a high percentage shot (or guess in that situation). The world has plenty of discussion points from this year, with the death of Kim Jung-il tipping the year to epic proportion.

However for Malaysians, despite its share of watershed moments this year, 2012 will be the one that is monumental. 

Two inevitable events in 2012 will dictate life in Malaysia for some time.

A general election and a court verdict.

He will go to jail

With his declaration from the defendant’s dock of his innocence and that Sodomy II is an elaborate political attack, Anwar Ibrahim has announced his disbelief in the country’s justice system under Barisan Nasional.

Legal minds are divided on the strategy, but still it did more than suggest that the leader of the opposition is readying himself for what seems like a predictable verdict. Few of those legal minds, outside the employ of the Malaysian government, disagree with Anwar.

On January 9 when the verdict comes out, there will be a reaction. Not rage, but a quiet shrug of the shoulder by millions of Malaysians. This disgust may translate to votes in the coming general election.

The column is mindful that there will be many other developments between that January week and the general election, but none will capture the collective imagination of Malaysians as much as this. The spectre of a grandfather going to jail six months after Prime Minister Najib Razak promising to reform the country’s arcane and oppressive laws removes any semblance of reform from the present administration.

The administration’s fear of a free Anwar in an election year may be its undoing.

General election

This column made the prognosis last year that there will be no general election this year. It has been vindicated on that score.

Six months ago it would be outright optimism bordering on blind faith to expect Pakatan Rakyat to exceed its Election 2008 results.

Today, there is talk in saner political corners of a possible election upset.

Najib has a large party, but most are in for what Umno can give them and are led by very few charismatic leaders. It is a party of money, not a party of ideas.

It can only rely on the following: a good economy, the buzz of 1 Malaysia, mainstream media and its election machinery.

The economy is strong, and the planned handouts leading to the election will affect votes. Still, decades of poor wealth distribution are starting to bite all over, the emerging scandals are only confirming allegations of an elitist system run to please one class, not any race, religion or state.

Mainstream media has been less dismissive of Pakatan Rakyat, even if they’d rather have dead air than say salutary things about the coalition. Some of the commentaries have given way to doubt.

The buzz of 1 Malaysia is the random factor. No poll can gauge it. Only a fair election will. It is conceivable that this administration is leaking support.

The BN machine is a money machine. It is less incisive in a general election than in a by-election. It is about pump-priming activities based on money. The question remains, how many Malaysians are keen on appearing to openly support the BN in the coming election, even if the money is good?

There is an air of change in the country, and an Anwar conviction will electrify the country more and convince them that if they let this moment slip, then a reversal will occur.

The electoral maths then…

The dwindled support for BN’s Chinese parties will start to tell. The Indian votes are divided at best, not in Najib’s bag necessarily. It is curious to note that Najib, not the MIC, holds sway with the community.

It is the young vote which will determine the result. Anwar does not poll that well with women, but that does not discount Pakatan’s overall appeal to women.

Penang is destined to stay with Pakatan. The parliamentary seats will be status quo.

Kedah will copy Penang, and Perlis is on a knife edge.

Pundits will not be surprised if the northwest turns into a Pakatan surge.

Kelantan is a safe seat, and the vagaries of Terengganu Umno politics does leave more questions than answers. Umno may keep the state, but only a two-seat majority in the parliamentary count.

Pahang will be Peninsular Malaysia’s battleground. There were urban wins for Pakatan, but it is the reach to Felda areas that will be telling. Umno to keep Pahang, but to lose more ground.

Perak and Selangor will go Pakatan, the first is a bigger call but a call has to be made.

With the expectation of a slim Pakatan win in Negri Sembilan, that leaves Malacca and Johor as solid Umno states.

All eyes will turn to Borneo. It is a mighty ask to expect a lion’s share of the parliamentary seats there, but Pakatan might broach the 20-seat mark, though it might end up being 15. That would reduce BN’s majority from Borneo (31 seats in Sarawak, 25 in Sabah) from 54 in 2008 to a manageable 26.

A national electoral win is possible, even if quite challenging, if the above inroad is achieved in Borneo.

Unlike Pakatan’s leadership conviction that the right candidates will win Putrajaya, this column is ready to call that it will be the national mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Malaysians wanting a new Malaysia which will secure the change.