The day BN teams took opposition voters to the polls

Fatal errors from a software change caused Barisan Nasional election teams to ferry droves of opposition supporters to the polls in 2018 at the general election where a seemingly invincible coalition fell from power.

(FMT) – Alleged internal sabotage of election software and a signal jamming attack caused chaos in the BN war room on election day, May 9 that year, writes Romen Bose, who was political communications adviser to BN leader and prime minister Najib Razak.

In a tell-all book, Bose writes about a change to the software used to monitor and coordinate its election activities that led to fatal errors on polling day.

He says Wanita Umno and Puteri Umno teams would visit almost every household or voter in each constituency to help determine whether they were “white” (pro-BN), “grey” (fence sitter) or ‘black” (opposition) voters.

“This data, along with addresses and ID card numbers would then be input into Umno’s sophisticated centralised computer system that would then compile all the lists.”

The Wanita and Puteri wings were responsible for using these lists to get BN supporters to polling stations to cast their ballots, Bose said.

However, the software change in early 2018 led to all voters, regardless of allegiance, being added to the same list.

Come polling day, “instead of just ferrying white supporters to the polling booths, the ‘get out to vote’ teams were doing the opposition an enormous favour by also ferrying opposition voters by the droves.

“A bonus for the opposition was the fact these teams had helped those opposition voters who would have otherwise not gone out to vote in the election, to turn up to vote, as they provided them with transport to the polling booth.”

Then “denial of service attacks” caused BN candidates to be denied mobile access to the various operations rooms and coordination teams. “We did not realise the impact of this at the time, but it was to have very serious consequences at the end of the day.”

As a result, late into the night, the BN war room was left in the dark about the true results being seen in various constituencies. They were expecting huge wins, based on exit polls and projections, while oblivious to the huge losses actually taking place in different corners of the country.

“The initial figures from exit polls showed significant wins for BN but once the results began coming in, they did not tally with the exit polls, with seats that should have been sure-wins falling to the opposition by very narrow margins and almost all marginal seats being lost.

“By 10pm, it was obvious that BN would struggle to form the government even with more than a third of the seats to be counted. It was obvious that BN had been badly mauled and was unlikely to survive.”

It didn’t. Barisan Nasional won just 79 seats that night, a far cry from the 133 it had managed to snag five years earlier.

Bose’s book ‘Final Reckoning: An Insider’s View of the Fall of Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional Government’ goes on sale on Dec 14. Pre-orders can be made through these bookshops: