Cover Story: GE14 and Perak

By Ili Aqilah Yus Amirul and Joshua Stephen Jacob

At 4.50am on May 10, a day after Malaysia’s 14th General Elections (GE14) were held, Pakatan Harapan (PH) won majority seats in parliament, ending Barisan Nasional’s (BN) 60-year grip on power. The results were shocking but expected by many. Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, won 122 seats, leaving BN with 79, PAS 18 and others 3. PH won big in Penang, Selangor, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Kedah, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor, while BN led in Pahang, Perlis and Sarawak. Kelantan remained under PAS along with Terengganu. Two days after the elections, on May 11, Parti Warisan Sabah, following a number of crossovers, won Sabah.

Three days after the polls neither PH nor BN nor PAS had majority representation in the Perak state assembly. PH won 29 seats, BN 27 leaving PAS with 3 seats. To form a state government, a party needs a simple majority of 30 seats.

The impasse was amicably settled late Friday, May 10 when two state assemblymen from BN, Dato’ Nolee Ashlin Mohammad Radzi, Adun Tualang Sekah and Dato’ Zainol Fadzi Paharudin, Adun Sungai Manik crossed over to PH to make up the required number.

Pakatan Harapan, with 31 seats in the state assembly, now helms Perak under the stewardship of Ahmad Faizal Azumu, the Perak Pakatan Harapan Chairman. Ahmad Faizal was sworn in as the 12th Menteri Besar of Perak by Sultan Nazrin Maizzuddin Shah at Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar on Saturday, May 12 around 6pm.

GE14 Will Be Long Considered the Most Memorable Election in History

When former Prime Minister, Najib Razak announced the election date, many were furious as it was fixed on a working day – Wednesday, May 9.

Prior to the elections, postal voters abroad had voiced their concerns about late arrival of their ballot papers. Some received their ballots less than 24 hours before polling time and had to seek  help to get it delivered before 5pm on May 9. They had to use courier service.

According to the Election Commission (EC) the percentage of people who voted in GE14 was 82.32% or 12,299,514 out of 14,940,624 registered voters. In GE13, only 11.26 million out of 13.27 million registered voters voted.

Perak Hot Seats

GE14 proved to be a very interesting one with many fascinating battles and exciting results. Perak was no exception. Here are some for our notice. PH’s Nga Kor Ming defeated Gerakan’s president and incumbent Mah Siew Keong and Ahmad Ramadzan Ahmad Daud from BN and the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), respectively to win the parliamentary seat of Teluk Intan. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj lost his Sungai Siput seat to PH’s Kesavan Subramaniam. The candidate from the Socialist Party of Malaysia held the parliament seat in Sungai Siput for two terms.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi retained his parliamentary seat in Bagan Datuk. The BN candidate had a 5073-majority win over his closest competitor, PH’s Pakhrurrazi Hj Arshad. PH’s Chang Lih Kang won the Tanjong Malim parliamentary seat with a 5358-majority. The other two candidates were Mah Hang Soon from BN and Tarmizi Abdul Rahman from PAS.

BN’s Mastura Mohd Yazid won the parliamentary seat of Kuala Kangsar defeating Ahmad Termizi Ramli from PH and Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah from PAS. It was a narrow win for Mastura as she held a 731 majority over Termizi. Tajuddin Abdul Rahman retained his seat in Pasir Salak. His 7712-majority win ensured victory over Salihuddin Radin Sumadi and Zafarulazhan Zan from PH and PAS, respectively.

Despite retaining the Perak State Legislative Assembly seat for Pangkor, former MB Zambry Abdul Kadir failed in his attempt to win the Lumut parliamentary seat. He lost narrowly to PH’s Mohd Hatta Ramli. The latter garnering 400 more votes than him.

Interview with the Candidates

Ipoh Echo spoke to PSM’s power couple, Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj and Mohanarani Rasiah to get their thoughts and views on GE14. Michael is better known for winning the parliamentary seat of Sungai Siput, defeating former MIC president Samy Vellu in 2008. He has since then retained the seat in the 2013 before losing it to Kesavan Subramaniam in the recent general election. Mohanarani, better known as Rani, ran for the Perak State Legislative Assembly seat in Buntong against Sivasubramaniam Athinarayanan from PH and Thangarani Thiagarajan from BN in the recent general election. The candidate from PH won the contested seat. It was the first time Rani has run for a seat in any election.

Despite both of them losing the respective seats they contested for, Michael and Rani were happy with the overall results of GE14.

“I am delighted with the overall outcome. This has been what a lot of Malaysians were hoping for. A regime change and a fresh start for the country,” said Michael. The sentiment was shared by Rani who said that it was a fantastic outcome for the county. “I’ve a lot of respect for my fellow Malaysians. It has been a change they wanted to make since 2008. It was very courageous of them to vote for a change, despite them being so used to the previous government. I find it hard to believe that we’ve a new government now,” she said. However, it was an outcome neither expected. “We didn’t believe it’d take place in this general election. But the people of Malaysia have proven to be more mature than I thought. I for one thought that Malaysians would have been more divided but they have clearly made it known that they’re hoping for a change. And now, it has come and it is extremely good for the country!” enthused Jeyakumar.

The newly-formed government has to now deliver according to Rani. “I hope they stick to their manifesto, as it is what they promised the people. I also hope that they’ll be more accessible than the previous leaders and ministers and are more prepared to listen and respond to the people. We had a government that was not very responsive, that was not prepared to get down and meet people. So, I hope this government will be different,” she said optimistically.

Michael feels that the new government will need time. “They’ll need time, but they’ve to show, that they will look after the people’s interest. They cannot be too pro-market as the market tends to marginalise those with low income. This is a big challenge for them but they have to ensure that their policies are inclusive,” he said.

He also added that plenty of internal changes would have to occur. “There was too much concentration of power in the cabinet and that has to change. The new cabinet members could get used to that power. Power corrupts and if you don’t have institutional checks and balances in place, then your incoming administration will become a stumbling block as they would be too comfortable with that power. The power has to be decentralised and the power of the ministers have to be reduced,” He said stressing the importance of a more balanced government.

There are several issues that will have to be addressed by the new government says Rani. “It’s not only the low-income group that are facing difficulties but the middle income as well. “It’s mostly bread and butter issues. People are struggling to buy houses and many are indebted with loans. Fresh graduates are struggling to secure a job. These are some of the major issues that will have to be looked into by the government,” she insisted.

When asked about their hopes for Perak moving forward, both Michael and Rani hoped that the lower-income group will be looked after and less marginalised by the government.

“In Sungai Siput, farmers are being evicted. Farming areas should be made permanent to allow the farmers to gain their wages without worries,” said Michael. An agreeing Rani shared similar concerns as she raised issues faced by those in Buntong.

“More liveable, low-cost houses should be built for the poor in areas that are available,” said Rani. Despite losing in the recent general election, the husband and wife team will continue their goodwill to fight for the people of Perak. “I do not think the election changed anything. Both my husband and I have been doing this for 20 years, and we’ll continue doing so,” said Rani.

Voters’ Comments

Hasanuddin Yusoff, 29, wants Najib’s mantra, “Cash is King” be abolished completely. He voted in Manjoi (N23) and Tambun (P063) and hoped more good changes are in store for Manjoi, especially in infrastructure, security and education.

“Education – primary and secondary school students are left far behind. Parents rely fully on teachers to educate their children. Students are not exposed to competition in the outside world. Students are happy if they could complete their education at Form 5 without the need to go further up. Parents in Manjoi are old. Youngsters like us are no longer staying in Manjoi. Students have only teachers and their parents in which parents do not encourage their children to struggle for the best. In a nutshell, it’s lack of motivation and exposure,” said Hasan. He also added that Manjoi does have a lot of talented lads but many prefer to work in factories rather than venturing beyond their comfort zones.

In contrast, Ummi Aiman Abdul Rahman, 27, a first time voter in Batu Gajah, believes that Batu Gajah doesn’t need more, except some more upgrades such as abandoned lands that could easily be used wisely.

“This was my first time voting. It felt so surreal to see a brand new country, I’m overjoyed. Never thought that I could be part of history. Batu Gajah has enough, I feel like too much development will disturb the aesthetic values of this town. I’d rather it stays the same, only with minor changes here and there,” said Ummi.

Nirmal Singh, 24, was a tad disappointed with the result of GE14 in his area. Voting in Ayer Kuning, he hoped that BN, the winning party, will work harder to improve the residents’ livelihood and other infrastructures.

“A few years ago, we lodged a report to Telekom Malaysia to instal cables in this area so the community here could have better range of network. The reports have been lodged more than 10 years, but no progress has been done. They simply asked us to fill up forms and that’s it. No actions were taken,” said Nirmal. He hopes that the new state government will help the residents’ working environment. Since many in Ayer Kuning are into agriculture, more help is needed in that area.

Another voter from Manjoi, Muhamad Nur Na’im Ishak, 25, hopes that the new government will work harder to improve the local economy.

“Hopefully, Perak will also get the same benefits like Selangor does. Free access to clean water, free bus service, more job openings and of course, more affordable houses.”

“For Alor Pongsu, I hope to see more development in sports. I too hope they’ll fix the roads and come up with a new bus service,” said first-time voter, Muhamad Fikri 26, who voted in Bagan Serai.

Shocked by the results of GE14 in Teluk Intan, Muhammad Hanafi Ahmad Husairi, 24, believes that the outcome is an example of the importance of young voters performing their electoral duties.

“I hope the newly-elected government will perform and fulfil all their promises. We as rakyat wish there’ll be no more corruption and nepotism. I hope the winning candidate in  Teluk Intan will listen to the community. As a resident myself, I hope to see more efforts being put in education. I want to see universities, colleges and learning centres in Teluk Intan!” said Hanafi.

Expectations of Voters

With the many surprises sprung in GE14, Ipoh Echo asked future voters what they expect to see in the future.

“First and foremost, I hope there’ll be a new voting system making it easier for everyone such as senior citizens, pregnant mothers and disabled persons to vote without much hassle. According to my mother there were many deficiencies. Voting streams were few and voters were made to wait in the open. Efforts to improve postal voting must be implemented immediately. Many didn’t receive their ballot papers in time. This prevented them from performing their duty,” said Farisah Aqilah Mazman, 19.

“I want better facilities such as public libraries, more art and culture hubs, faster Wi-Fi and rent-a-bike systems like O-Bike in Ipoh” said teenager Aqilah. Mior Aimaan Mior Abdul Murad, 18, felt that GE14 was proof that change can happen.

“I wish for better facilities so Perakeans can have decent living standards at par with more advanced states. Perak is languishing at the bottom of the pile and this is shameful,” Mior lamented.

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