Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Indian vote may sway the coming Malaysian elections?

How will the Indian vote sway the coming M'sian elections?
Minority Report
Susan Tam, 31 Dec. 2007
By Susan Tam
THEY are a minority in Malaysia, but Indians might be large enough a bloc in some parliamentary seats to make the difference between winning and losing.
Indians represent only 7per cent of the Malaysian population but, in seats in nine states, they form 10 to 20 per cent of voters.
If the margin of victory here at the previous election is under 20 per cent, then Indians might well tip victory in favour of the ruling coalition or the opposition.
As the graphics show, Kedah, Pahang, Perak and Penang have enough Indian voters to topple seats currently held by the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN).
In these states, the margins of victory range from 4 per cent to 29per cent. This is the proportion of extra votes the winning candidates got.
One seat in Pahang has no hope without Indian voters. (See graphics at right.) The others are touch and go if 20per cent of Indian voters swing to the other side, along with a small proportion of Chinese swing voters.
This could lead to BN losing up to seven seats in these four states.
(This assumes the margin of victory in the individual seats does not vary greatly from the average winning margins for the state.)
In the remaining five states with a high proportion of Indian voters, the BN's victory margin is too large for Indian voters to make a difference.
With elections tipped to take place soon (expectedly next March), political observers are closely watching the Indian vote.
Not that Indian voters can, on their own, change the overall results of the national elections.
And not that the Opposition can gain an upper hand based on the share of votes at the last election.
BN took 66 per cent of votes, while the Opposition got 34 per cent.
There are only 50 parliamentary constituencies out of a total of 219 that have between 10 and 20 per cent Indian voters.
And out of these, only seven seats are vulnerable to Indian bloc voting.
The status quo, therefore, may not face danger of a big change in government at the federal or state levels. But the Indian factor, together with a host of recent events, might well represent a tipping point, as the Chinese in Malaysia are also rattled by race relations.
Also, a charismatic candidate who wins a seat in one of the hot constituencies has the potential to gain a higher profile at the federal level. This might lead to an amplification of the opposition's influence and could affect decisions on national policies.
Last month, more than 20,000 Indians marched in Kuala Lumpur claiming they had suffered discrimination.
Protesters were led by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). The incident ended with several Hindraf leaders being arrested under the Internal Security Act.
Political observers said the clashes could possibly lead to Indian voters not showing support for BN.
'That is an extreme view, if we were to assume all Indian voters will record their unhappiness at the polls,' said political science head DrAhmad Nidzammudin from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
'The Hindraf issue has certainly impacted the Indian voters and Malaysians as a whole, it could act as a catalyst in changing the hands of power in some seats,' he observed.
Also, an anonymous e-mail being circulated recently is seen as part of the efforts to mobilise the Malaysian Indians. In it, the sender called for those who were disappointed with current political situation should 'make themselves heard' at the ballot boxes.
BN's dominance will not come to an end should all Indian voices rally against it, but losing several seats will see an erosion of the current two-third majority it holds in the Parliament.
BN is made up of main political parties representing the Indian (MIC), Chinese (MCA) and Malay (UMNO) ethnic groups.
Compared with these two other communities, the Indians are perceived as not having much say in the makings of the Malaysian government, said DrAhmad.
But last month's Hindraf led rally may have affected the way this community view the ruling power.
In the 2004 General Elections, close to seven million Malaysians voted. To date, there are no official figures on non-voting Malaysians.

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