Young Voters want 'more food and less fear' and whichever coalition - Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat - wins this argument will control politics

By Selvaraja Somiah

This is going to be a cold election. Neither candidate nor party will be able to waft on hot air.

If the Barisan National wants to succeed, it has to remember a key fact: the young voter is outgrowing communal rhetoric.

He wants more food and less fear. At the moment he is getting the reverse.

My take is that Najib Tun Razak and Anwar Ibrahim should debate about “more food, less fear, for future Malaysia.”

But this is not going to happen. Why? Because the government has a vested interest in fudge.

After all, there can be no opposition if there is no position.

Barisan Nasional’s best hope is to muddle through the 13th general election and return with roughly the same numbers through a strategy of least resistance

Take Umno, it has one advantage – Malays, its main vote bank. Malays do not vote for something; they vote against someone.

Stripped off illusions

This suits the Umno perfectly. It feeds fear to Malays, and offers development to other electorates.

Success breeds imitation, but change, the slogan which dazzled the US when Barrack Obama became President of America, will be insufficient in Malaysia.

Frustration has stripped the Malaysian voter of illusions. Offer him change, and he will demand to know to what.

Promise him a job and he will ask where, when, how and to whom.

The relevant slogan is not the one that ousted Pairin Kitingan’s Sabah government in the 1994 state election despite PBS (Parti Bersatu Sabah) securing a victory. The issue that laid out Pairin 18 years ago was “the economy”.

No government in its senses would want to contest an election on the economy.

Just look around, jobs are disappearing in cities and farmers are finding it hard to sell their produce because of the escalating prices on seeds, fertilizers and chemicals and even the rising animal and poultry feed prices is hitting poultry processors hard.

Looking for substance

But the BN/Umno seems poised to offer a virtuous trinity of vitality (Khairy Jamaludin), morality (Najib) and nobility (Rosmah Mansur).

The voter will, however, check for substance behind the advertising.

The arithmetic of a cold election will be determined by the sum total of regional numbers.

The formation of the next government could depend on how well the allies, rather than the principals, do.

The Pakatan’s partners seem more confident than the Barisan Nationals’ friends.

But such is the perceived fluidity of options displayed by Anwar (PKR), Abdul Hadi Awang (PAS), Lim Kit Siang (DAP), who see themselves as possible occupants of Putrajaya.

They may not agree on anything else, but they believe that neither the BN nor the Pakatan coalition will cross the 111-seat mark necessary to become the plank on which a government can rest.

The politics of the 90′s and the 20′s has seen the rise of flexible morality leading to an explosion of opportunity in March 2008 GE.

Younger, newer leaders likely

Will the politics of the 2010′s be different? Yes.

There is likely to be fatigue in West Malaysia with the insular dynamics of regional parties in Sabah and Sarawak, trapped in concentric rings of family and state and a yearning for political formations that offer more than stagnant regional horizons.

The next government in Putrajaya, like this one, might be less than the sum of its parts, rather than more.

There are no institutional methods of re-nourishment once the leaders of small parties in Sabah and Sarawak become vulnerable to age or accident.

You might then, with good reason, consider 2008 the semi-final election.

The finals will take place in the elections after this, probably this year 2012, when the BN and Pakatan square off in most parts of the country.

They will have younger, if not newer leaders, creating the base for Sabah and Sarawak to be the kingmakers in Putrajaya.

But the problem will not have been resolved. Whoever wins the argument on food and fear in 2012 will control the decade.

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