Ninety-six Percent! Dream Results in Vietnam’s Parliamentary Election


Partyforumseasia: The election was on 22 May but given remaining logistical problems in rural areas and some other incidents, the National Election Council (NEC) announced the final results only on Thursday, 9 June.
VN election 5.16Political parties world wide can only dream of winning 96 percent of the seats, but most of them have a big handicap, they have to compete with other parties. Vietnam’s Communist Party has no party competitors in the single party system, but this year independents and activists have tried to make inroads into parliament in bigger numbers than ever before. True to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin‘s advice “trust is Leningood control is better”, the authorities have painstakingly screened the 100 odd independent candidates. According to the constitution, every citizen of Vietnam over 21 has the right to run, but the umbrella organization of all Vietnamese mass organizations, the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) has a mandate to screen all candidates, whether fielded by the Communist Party, other mass organizations or self-nominated. In the 2015 Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front Article 19 stipulates: “The Vietnam Fatherland Front shall organize in accordance with law consultations, selection and nomination of candidates for deputies to the National Assembly or People’s Councils;…” With the authorities already alarmed before the nomination deadline on March 13, the VFF has done the required job by eliminating all but 11 self-nominated candidates for the National Assembly, two of them being finally elected. Since the vetting process is not transparent, the rejected candidates and their supporters are not happy. A prominent victim of the screening, the “five gates”, was pop star Mai Khoi, also called Vietnam’s Lady Gaga. For her campaign posters she had dressed down considerably, showing herself as a serious conservative candidate, which was obviously not enough to make her trustworthy.
Vietnamese Lady GagaMai Khoi

Only two elected self-nominated candidates, one of them a businessman from the North, and a hematologist, means 50 % less than in the last election, when four had made it. Another 19 non-party members have been nominated by state institutions, down from 42 non party members altogether last time.

Among the other results, published so far, are:

– An enormous voter turnout of 99.35 %

National Assembly: 496 members (317 first-timers) elected out of 870 candidates Four seats remain vacant because of insufficient turnout in four provinces. Maybe the same shortcoming has been reported in Singapore’s Straits Times (Link): “Deputy assembly chairman Phung Quoc Hien said the high national turnout showed the ballot was a success, even with some instances of fraud and calls on social media for a voter boycott.” Oh-oh!

– To be elected were also  3,918 provincial councilors, 24,993 district councilors and 294,055 commune councilors for the 2016-2021 period. The official announcements so far focus on the National Assembly. It is not excluded that the local results are not everywhere as expected…

The chairperson of the NEC acknowledges that “There were some errors on voting cards that led to invalid votes and forced a re-election in some cases. There were also some cases of negligence when it came to controlling the number of ballots issued and the number received. Many constituencies didn’t elect enough representatives, especially at communal level, and some people voted on others’ behalf” (VNExpress, June 8)

– 62.5 % of elected delegates have a master’s degree or higher; 36.3 a bachelor’s degree; and 1.2 percent, or six delegates, don’t have a degree at all. The party does not mention workers and farmers any more.

133 delegates are women, 26.8 % and slightly short of the 30 % target

Vietnam’s ethnic minorities hold 17.3 % of the seats

– 182  candidates (36.7 percent of total NA delegates) have been nominated centrally, 312 delegates were nominated by local organizations
But nearly half of the centrally nominated candidates in Ho Chi Minh City have not been elected and about a third in Hanoi, with a few more in smaller places, altogether 15. The alleged national unity seems to have some risky corners. 

– All top leaders were re-elected, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong with 86.47 %; President Tran Dai Quang with 75.08 % ; Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc with 99.48 %; and NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan with 91.46 %
The lowest score went to the minister for Natural Resources and Environment, probably because of the dead fish crisis, but his 65 % would still be a dream result in more competitive systems

Open Questions to follow up:
Behind the official fanfares about the feast of democracy in Vietnam it will be interesting to wait for more information about the provinces with insufficient turnout and the four vacant seats. But even more interesting will be detailed results of the Peoples’ Councils elections on all levels from province down to the municipalities. Communication and social networks won’t make it easier for the party to control nearly 100 m Vietnamese.

 

 

 

 

 

“Southeast Asian Elections Worst in the World” ?


Partyforumseasia: Max Grömping, researcher and co-author of the Electoral Integrity Project (see our last post) has published an article on elections in our region in University of Sydney’s New Mandala (Link here). El. SEA 1

We take it up as an important follow-up, though the headline “Southeast Asian Elections Worst in the World” sounds a bit too bad to be completely true. The 2013-2014 survey is covering only 107 countries, so the worst performers in Africa and Latin America are not in and drag Southeast Asia to the bottom of the comparison.

El. SEA 2Even with this caveat the Perception of Electoral Integrity (PEI) index for Southeast Asia is certainly disappointing enough and cries for reform and improvement in order to match the growing economic weight of the region.
Please read and evaluate Grömping’s assessments and conclusions yourself. Unfortunately, there is nothing much to add in favor of the five countries covered and the local electoral shortcomings. As Partyforumseasia repeatedly highlighted, the political finance or money politics issue is probably the most important Achilles’ heel, where even top rated Western Europe is not fully in the green area.

But Max Grömping offers some hope in his conclusions as well: “But if nothing else, the post-election protests in Malaysia and Cambodia, the small but continuous signs of discontent in Thailand, as well as the vibrant civil society efforts to strengthen electoral integrity in the Philippines and Indonesia show that citizens across the region are fiercely protective of their vote. This demand for democracy is currently met with an under-supply. But it does not need to stay that way.”

Malaysia: UMNO Polls Without Surprise


Partyforumseasia:The internal party polls are over, UMNO president Najib and his deputy were confirmed uncontested. As The Star Online (click for the link) summarises today, 20 October 2013, “Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s call for status quo resounded within the party.”

All incumbents for the top party posts have been re-elected, and the probably most anticipated possible win of “rising son” Mukhriz Mahathir was narrowly avoided with 91 votes for Mukhriz and 100 for the incumbent. Mukhriz 1
Speculations that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position as party president had been weakened after the May general election were obviously exaggerated, if even the women wing’s leader Sharizat, tainted

by her “cowgate”- corruption scandal, made it easily with a 90% majority.

The real balance of power between the different factions in the party remains mostly behind the wayang kulit screen, though. But according to analyst Bridget Welsh from Singapore’s Management University, the Mahathir Mohamad camp is angry and expected to hit back (Malaysiakini, 20.10.)

What is interesting beyond the incumbents is how the new internal polling system worked and whether it changed the dynamics within the party. It is difficult to believe vice president Muhyddin’s statement that the new system is “not only a mission to eliminate money politics but more importantly, to strengthen the party by empowering the grassroots” (The Star Online, 20.10.) For the first time, not the traditional 2,500, but 230,000 delegates could vote, but only within one of the 191 branches. This gives the rural branches which are easier to control much more weight than the urban ones with more members. According to Bridget Welsh (Malaysiakini) there is also evidence of vote-buying and the usual top-down pattern in the new system.

Philippines: Is Re-election Without Pork Barrelling Possible?


PorkPartyforumseasia: A recent scandal involving 23 suspects including members of parliament and senators as well as former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may give new momentum to the fight against political corruption and the endemic pork barrelling in the Philippines, which President Aquino has declared a priority for his term of office. Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is under investigation for setting up bogus NGOs and embezzling nearly $ 290 million from disaster relief and development funds. Up to half of the funds paid out to the NGOs seem to have gone to the accused legislators.
Pork Barrelling is a common political tool in the country and based, like in other countries in the region, on traditional patron-client relations between voters and their MP or senator. According to the political science analysis legislators get kickbacks from development projects (e.g. the Countryside Development Fund – CDF) at a rate of 30%. One full term in office was supposed to yield about $ 200,000 for a House member and $ 600,000 for a senator (estimated 2009 figures). This has been called “Standard Operation Procedures (SOP)” but growing public protest and President Aquino’s determination to fight corruption might end the SOP – probably later than sooner. Lawmakers so far need this additional income to pay for their party and campaign expenses.

PAS (Malaysia): Dirty Campaign Tactics Ahead of Party Polls?


Mat SabuPartyforumseasia: While complaining about dirty and “worst-ever” campaigning tactics ahead of the party polls in November, PAS vice-president Mohamad (Mat) Sabu notes that open campaigning was not permitted in the party but has become the trend among members now. For Partyforumseasia the “new trend” (?) is less surprising than the alleged ban on open campaigning. Competition is or should be normal in a political party and is rather common. If you have ambitions on party posts you must be known by the members and this is hardly possible without some sort of internal campaigning.
Civility, courtesy, calumny, comeradery, friendship, blackmailing, bribery, brutality, even violence and all the shades between them are common in political parties since ancient times. Former German chancellor Konrad Adenauer was quoted as saying about the relations between competing party members: enemy – mortal enemy – party comrade…
It would be close to a miracle if PAS had managed to avoid it. But they may have a moral chip on their shoulder by claiming that they are better Malays than the UMNO members.
See: Straits Times, Singapore, 27.9.2013, page 17A
PAS 1

Malaysia: Compromise between BN and PR?


Partyforumseasia:Political contestation is as normal in democratic multi-party systems as eventual compromise. National unity governments have helped to reconcile the competitors after bitter election campaigns. Channels of dialogue should be the very least that voters can expect from politicians who declare themselves as patriots and want to serve the country. This is why many fingers should be crossed when signals of dialogue between PM Najib and opposition leader Anwar ( or PM Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy in the Cambodian case) become visible.
See (link) Asia Sentinel 12 August 2013
NajibAnwar

Cambodia: A Surprise in the Pipeline???


Partyforumseasia does not like fortune-telling but the political timeline for the last few weeks looks a bit like indicating a surprise solution:

Mid July
Royal Pardon for Sam Rainsy at the request of PM Hun Senin a spirit of reconciliation

19th July
Triumphant return of Sam Rainsy after four years in exile to avoid imprisonment after a dubious sentence he calls politically motivated

28th July
Election results with heavy losses for the ruling CPP and significant gains for the opposition under Sam Rainsy: 68 seats CPP – 55 seats CNRP

29th July
Press conference of Sam Rainsy: “We are asking for this (investigation into alleged massive irregularities) not to bargain for positions in the government
(Source: Straits times Indochina Bureau Chief Nirmal Gosh, who continues: “He (Sam Rainsy) said it was “premature” to talk about power sharing in the new government.”)

31st July
PM Hun Sen: “The Cambodian People’s Party has an open heart to talk to the CNRP” Background: The CPP has not enough seats to convene parliament and needs the CNRP’s cooperation…

Soon???
– A grand coalition between CPP and CNRP in the national interest of the country?
Sam Rainsy finance minister? or better Foreign Minister?
Partyforumseasia: Probably not a bad solution for Cambodia!

Hun Sam

Cambodia: Sam Rainsy Back Home to Challenge Hun Sen?


RainsyPartyforumseasia: Yesterday, 7 July 2013, Sam Rainsy has announced his return to Cambodia.  See his Facebook page.

The country will be going to the polls on 28 July and – as usual – Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is expected to win big. The long term ruling party is well prepared with a total penetration of the administration and its control of media and economy. Could opposition leader Sam Rainsy be Hun Sen’s nemesis this time? Rainsy lives in exile since 2009 to avoid imprisonment up to eleven years after a dubious conviction, but the internet allows him constant contact with his party. And this time the opposition has managed to unite in the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Sam Rainsy is the only Cambodian politician with the format and popularity to challenge PM Hun Sen, whose official title is as impressive as his long term grip on power: “The Noble, Supreme, Great, and All Powerful Commander-in-Chief, Prime Minister Hun Sen”. But many Cambodians resent the cronyism and corruption of the CPP regime and the evident nepotism in the Prime Minister’s family.

Hun Sen

Respect: UMNO’s Internal Election Reform


VitalsratistixPartyforumseasia: UMNO is getting serious in renewing the less than perfect internal election procedures. After 26 years of pre-democratically choosing the party president and his deputy without voting and by acclamation, this method described and  ridiculed in Asterix’s old Gaul, comes to an end. In the upcoming party elections, probably between mid July and mid August, UMNO will come back to a proper election of the two top leaders. It will remain to be seen whether the election will be competitive or not, and if yes, who will have the courage to openly challenge Prime Minister Najib.
Whether he will like it or not, the voting might show his support level in the party, at least by abstentions, spoiled or no votes.

The other part of the reform will expand the number of delegates with voting rights from 2,500 to 146,500, probably enough to make vote buying too expensive even for the richest UMNO members with ambitions for local leadership posts.
See also the short overview on the reform compiled by Singapore’s Straits Times of 29 June:
UMNO new voting system

Virtual Politics in Southeast Asia: Leaders Must Blog


Partyforumseasia: Obviously many voters like to feel close to their leaders, and subscribing to their blogs seems to provide this feeling. This, in turn, obliges the leaders to set up their own websites. Singapore’s Straits Times, 24 June, provides an overview, here is a selection for Southeast Asia, that is the rulers. The opposition figures may be interesting as well and a comparison of the number of followers…

Indo

Malay
Myan

Phil & Sing

Thai

Malaysia: Competition for UMNO’s Top Job?


VitalstatistixPartyforumseasia: This is “Vitalstatistix”, chief of Asterix’s and Obelix’s village in old Gaul. He is waiting on his shield to be uplifted and reconfirmed as chief…

The extended UMNO leadership seems to be divided over how party chairman Prime Minister Najib Razak should be confirmed this time: uncontested like all UMNO top leaders in the last 26 years…or elected. Competitive party elections can be divisive, sure, and each contender has his or her own enemies and supporters. But such is party politics and competition is normal.

For the next party election later this year, PM Najib seems to have already a potential challenger, UMNO senior statesman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, once called ” the best Prime Minister Malaysia never had”. Because (or despite his age, born in 1937) he might be the right leader to reconcile the UMNO factions and maybe even UMNO and PAS…
RazaleighNajib

 

 

 

 

 

Another interesting result of the new competitiveness in Malaysia’s politics are the attempts of UMNO to reduce its internal money politics by enlarging the voter base for the party elections. Increasing the number of members with voting right from 2,500 to 140,000 may indeed make vote buying too expensive and unaffordable even for the richest leaders. But the patronage and pork barrel system will be difficult to eradicate.

UMNO is a Democratic Party, UMNO is a Democratic Party, UMNO is…


AsterixPartyforumseasia …would never say it isn’t. The debate is inside the party about the two top leadership posts. It is an old habit since the times of Asterix about 2000 years ago to lift “born” leaders on a shield without wasting time for elections. Acclamation is sometimes acceptable if clear majorities are evident. But the normal way of determining party leaders is a contested election because it shows the margin of support for the winning leader. Obviously some leaders in UMNO want to do it the Asterix way, without the shield of course. Some others seem to prefer a proper election. But both are sure that UMNO is a democratic party:
Pahang’s chief minister Adnan Yaakob told reporters that he is against the uncontested top job solution: “UMNO is a democratic party. It is better if we do not do this because it will show that we are autocratic”. Deputy Prime Minister and UMNO deputy leader Muhyiddin Yassin who would profit from an uncontested re-election did not want to comment.
Actually the last contested election for the UMNO leadership was in 1987, 26 years ago, when Dr. Mahathir Mohamad narrowly won against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, which led to a party split. Najib 1

Beginning of the End of Indonesian Money Politics?


WidodoPartyforumseasia: Will this man change the endemic political corruption in Indonesia? Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, seems to meet the expectations of a growing number of Indonesians fed up ad nauseam with big style money politics in their country. President SBY turning out more and more as a lame duck at the end of his term, popular darling “Jokowi”, as the former mayor of Solo is affectionately known, may be the early front runner in the presidential race for next year.
In a recent poll by think tank CSIS Widodo leads with 28.6% in front of former general Prabowo from the Gerindra Party with 15.6 %. Golkar chairman and business tycoon Abdurizal Bakrie, in strong headwind after scandals, comes third with 7%, and PDI-P long term leader Megawati Sukarnoputri is nearly written off at 5.4%.

The humble style of Widodo, e.g. using the office driver but in his private car, obviously meets the dreams of many voters of an approachable politician who is not showing the usual priority of lining his own and his party’s pockets. One of the leading experts on Indonesian money politics, Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University, estimates the campaign cost for the governorship of an average Indonesian province at a staggering 10 million US$. The popular dream of cleaner politics may pick up with Jokowi. So more parties than his own PDI-P are eying him as their own presidential candidate…

Backlash for Malaysia’s Partisan Media?


Apa lagi Cina mahuPartyforumseasia: Taking up PM Najib’s unfortunate formula of a Chinese tsunami with the infamous headline “Apa lagi Cina mahu?” (What else do the Chinese want?), the UMNO owned Utusan Malaysia newspaper has exposed its own partisanship to a degree that undermines its credibility even more. The domination, if not control, of the media by government and ruling coalition, blamed among other shortcomings for the uneven political playing field, starts to create a backlash in the era of internet reporting and social media. With the credibility of the partisan media, their economic success is also threatened. An article in the (link:) 2 June Straits Times (Singapore) gives a number of interesting details. And nota bene at the same time the saying goes that the best coverage of domestic developments in Malaysia is supposed to be published in Singapore (and vice versa).
By the way, the first political riddle in the childhood of the author of these lines was: “What lies at your doorstep in the morning and lies? Answer: The newspaper…
See also the following link: Malaysia’s Dilemma
Malaysia papers 1
Malaysia papers 2

A “GE13-Autopsy” with Four Preliminary Conclusions


Popular vote

Source: http://malaysiasdilemma.wordpress.com 10 May 2013

Partyforumseasia:

  1. Majority of mandates and minority of the popular vote
    Barisan Nasional had to win this election at any cost and it did so, never mind the further eroding simple majority. It had to win it in order to keep its grip on the political power, its control of the administration, and the connected business networks which have oiled its machinery for decades. A victorious opposition with a probably cleaner and more transparent government style and consequently cutting the cronies off the pork barrels would have meant much too radical losses for the beneficiaries of the established system. And a losing Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition will certainly face problems to keep its ranks closed.Eventually, PM Najib’s strategy of an all-out campaign with a mix of threats and goodies, neglecting the short and long term costs for the taxpayer, was successful against the groundswell of opposition sentiment in the population. The much discussed popular vote majority for the opposition (50.9 against 47.4 % for BN) is rather irrelevant in terms of power politics as long as Malaysia does not change the British-heritage first-past-the-post system, though it affects the legitimacy and credibility of the continued BN-rule. So, for the next five years don’t expect changes to the electoral system. As Lee Kuan Yew from neighbouring Singapore once said, a ruling party cannot be expected to make it easier for the opposition.
  2. A stolen victory?
    If an incumbent ruling party or coalition has to win at any cost, at least some preparations for manipulation must be expected. And many Malaysians did expect it. What came up during election night and triggered the complaints of the opposition is probably haunting the BN as well and will continue to do so for a while. The congratulations from president Obama and the EU were urging PM Najib to carefully address the alleged fraud cases. That is a quite unusual diplomatic formulation which affects the international image of Malaysia. But in the face of a critical Bersih (Malay for clean) movement monitoring the elections with tens of thousands of local observers specially trained to detect attempts of fraud, the BN strategists and campaigners may have been prepared for very cautious procedures and for mudding the water after the end of the vote counting as well. More than a week after the election now, the EC chairman urges the opposition to accept being defeated. Opposition and Bersih, on the other hand, seem to be slow with presenting proof of fraud, saying they are still compiling evidence. But the EC by-laws give them ample time for that. Much material published online has disappeared from the internet, but as of 13 May the PKR Election Fraud Investigative Team is looking into 237 complaints, especially in cases with a winning margin under 5%. Future investigation by Election Commission (EC) and courts may bring up more evidence than we have so far. Nevertheless, the anger of hundreds of thousands of outraged protesters clad in black show the public sentiment and the lack of trust in government and EC.  That is a difficult and dangerous situation showing quite brutally the cleavages in Malaysia’s society.
  3. Reconciliation despite bitterness and mistrust?
    Fortunately, Malaysia has enjoyed many years of peaceful development without open conflicts. But unfortunately, political interference, like preferential treatment for Malays, housing and settlement policies, the crony-networks, and the religious undertones in the UMNO-PAS competition about who has the better Muslim credentials, have created and intensified resentment and critical opposition to the decades of BN-rule in growing sectors of the population, nota bene including urban Malays. This is why PM Najib’s first reaction in disappointment and anger, holding a “Chinese tsunami” responsible for his lacklustre victory was a serious mistake. All his calls for reconciliation and unity sound hollow after this, and may cost him the leadership of UMNO eventually.
    On the other hand, the world political history of the last few years is full of narrow and dubious election outcomes with opposition protests fizzling out sooner or later. In the Malaysian case, the final price for the May 5th narrow victory may turn out to be costly for UMNO. Much depends on Anwar’s and Bersih’s perseverance in questioning the results. But even if their protest dies down sooner or later, the BN administration will have to continue to pamper its supporters with material goodies or risk being let down even further. This type of indirect and thus not illegal vote buying will turn out to be more and more costly, after the outrageously costly campaign we have seen already.

4.    Toward a two-party system?
During the last few weeks many commentators were talking about an upcoming two-party system. We can safely assume that the heavy losses of BN’s component parties are gradually pushing UMNO into admitting that it is more or less alone in charge. MCA and Gerakan have been kept alive with the financial and logistic support of UMNO and both have relied too much on this relationship. This political miscalculation has been punished on May 5th and may lead to their dissolution sooner or later.
On the opposition side it is rather difficult to see any tendency toward a merger. As long as Anwar Ibrahim does not retire from politics and joins academia, as he had announced (or threatened?) for the case of losing the election, PKR will remain a strong player. Whether PKR or DAP is the more stable and stronger party is not clear despite the better results of DAP. Merger tendencies or even merger talks between the two have not been published so far, and a merger of any of them with PAS is even more improbable. Racial issues, the urban-rural divide and its gerrymandering advantages, as well as religious preferences will continue to create high barriers against the formation of a united opposition party. But in the longer perspective it may be possible with a new leader even more charismatic than Anwar and who can galvanise the resistance against the prolonged BN rule even more successfully. With the popular vote already on the side of the opposition, the BN strategists cannot lean back and rule as usual. They will try to divide the PR parties as much as possible, but this may backfire with the growing number of voters who suspect UMNO of working more for their own survival than for the progress of the country.

Are Voters Stupid and Greedy or Smart and Wise?


Voters...Partyforumseasia: Tonight, 5 May, we will know more about the mindsets and the intentions of Malaysia’s 13.3 million voters. Are goodie bags and promises enough to convince them and produce a clear majority? Are the leading politicians and strategists reading the ground correctly? Are the pollsters more and more wrong like in most European countries? Will the first-past-the-post election system generate an outcome which does not reflect the majority of intentions and voter sentiments?

How the voters are being seen by candidates and partisans will depend on the outcome. Opposition voters are stupid if you are on the ruling party’s side and vice versa.

Churchill‘s famous quote that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with an average voter sounds more than arrogant today. Having a choice after more than five decades without a real choice is already a victory for the Malaysian voter.

Malaysiakini is suggesting the following websites which will carry the live results tonight:
http://www.malaysiakini.com
https://www.malaysiakini.com
http://m.malaysiakini.com
http://www.mkini.co

https://www.facebook.com/MalaysiaKini
https://twitter.com/malaysiakini
https://twitter.com/Yahoo_MY

http://www.kinitv.com
http://www.youtube.com/kinitv
https://www.facebook.com/kinitv
http://www.youtube.com/malaysiakini

http://live.undi.info
https://ge13.s3.amazonaws.com
http://bit.ly/ge13result

Malaysia’s UMNO: Leadership, Warlords, Members, and what keeps them together


Malaysia votesPartyforumseasia: Intense reporting about the election on 5 May brings up a rare glimpse into the structure and internal workings of the ruling party. Here is some information about a membership of more than three million, 20.000 branches etc., but also about the power of grassroot leaders, often called warlords in UMNO. See the revealing article of assistant foreign editor Reme Ahmad in the Straits Times of 3 May 2013.
Here are some key assessments:

“These warlords are a kind of pseudo-godfather…(…) The chiefs get financial allocations from the party and government. (…) In return, they deliver votes for Umno and its Barisan Nasional coalition…These warlords have to be kept happy (…) as they can otherwise sabotage candidates who are parachuted in.
In this election, the wrath of the warlords was on full display when Prime Minister Najib Razak shoehorned his own “winnable” candidates into many constituencies…(…)
In Umno, each of the 191 divisions has hundreds of branches, with total party membership at 3.2 million people. Keeping the branches loyal includes dishing out small projects, and this is where allegations of corruption and the overpricing of projects arise. (…) During the general election and by-elections, disaffected warlords have at times sabotaged their own party (…). Other warlords are known to have told supporters to vote for the other side. To reduce internal mischief, troublesome local leaders are often “given goodies”…
But UMNO is also reforming itself. Obviously in order to reduce money politics and vote buying in the internal elections, 100,000 members instead of the former 2,500 division delegates will elect the party chief later this year. Reme Ahmad comments: “The thinking is that it would be impossible to buy the loyalty of so many people.”
Partyforumseasia:

Party loyalty, of course, hardly comes without any material incentives, be it just power or all sorts of other perks. But the Southeast Asian practice of pork barrel politics has reached quite spectacular levels.
Umno structure 2013

Malaysia’s GE13: Any Economic Risk if the Opposition Wins?


Partyforumseasia: A recommended background article from an economic and investor’s viewpoint. Not surprisingly, the BN campaign predicts economic decline and chaos if the opposition should win. That is a routine threat of incumbent governments world-wide if they feel that defeat is possible. The four opposition state governments since 2008 have not messed up the economy so far and the BN strategists know that the voters know that. But campaign strategists and party leaders always hope that threats can be as powerful as promises… And few Malaysians remember that nearly half of the federal budget comes from oil revenues and not from taxation.
Investor

Source / Link: Institutional Investor Magazine

Malaysia’s GE13: Cleaner Election With Indelible Ink?


Partyforumseasia: After decades of extremely predictable election results with more than two-thirds majorities for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, 2008 has changed the game. In the 5 May election BN is fighting for survival and continuing access to the huge spoils of power, the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition feels that victory is possible. Election campaigns in Malaysia have always been intense and costly with visible party propaganda like flags and posters all over the country. But this time the population is more divided and politicized than ever before. To calm down widespread suspicions after a long history of election anomalies, the Election Commission (EC) is introducing indelible ink for the first time. And the very first test run when 230.000 Army and Navy personnel came for advance voting on 30 April, immediately produced doubts about the durability of the ink – seven days according to the EC.
GE13ink

Source / Link: Straits Times 1 May 2013

Malaysia’s GE13: Of Frogs and Princes


Partyforumseasia: The ugly frog turned out to be a handsome prince, at least in the fairy tale. In a country where party switching has a long tradition (see national cartoonist Lat’s 1992 cartoon), turncoat politicians are not unknown, even welcome by other parties if they seem to be winnable candidates. But this universal feature, often accompanied by cash handouts, seems to be less acceptable with the Malaysian voters this time. The turncoats are now called katak = frog…

Lat 1
Partyforumseasia: One of the frogs has been nominated by PM Najib to the surprise of many. This rather controversial politician was with PAS first, then with PKR, and is now running as religious and Malay supremacy wild card for BN against a moderate from PAS… This pairing could hardly be more ironical.

Zulkifli

Source / Link: Straits Times 24.4.13

Candidate (s)election in Southeast Asia… Today: Thailand


Partyforumseasia:  Winnability is certainly the most important criterion for the selection of candidates. Whether the candidate elected by his or her branch with participation of the party members has better chances than the one appointed by the party leadership with its higher overview and wisdom is debatable. With all the appointments going on in the overheated campaign preparations in Malaysia (and the “sulking” dropped incumbents…) on both sides, in Thailand there is still the demand from the ground to hold proper elections, this time from the “Red Shirts” in Chiang Mai, obviously unhappy with the way PM Yingluck is promoting her sister…
Yinluck&sister

Chiang Mai

Source / Link: The Nation 16 April 2013

Malaysia’s GE 13: “Best Election Ever” and Sulking Dropped Candidates


GE13Partyforumseasia:   Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, chairman of the Election Commission (EC), announced 5 May as polling day and 15 days for the official campaign yesterday. Dismissing claims that it could be one of the dirtiest, he said: “We hope that this would be the best general election.” (Link: New Straits Times) Whether the 15 days are a sign of “healthy democracy”, as PM Najib says, may not be so important after nearly two years of unofficial campaigning. But the procedures organized by the EC have certainly improved, from indelible ink (colour still kept secret…) to more attention to the voter list and the possibility for voters to check it online.

Another feature, obviously less controversial in Malaysia and other countries in Southeast Asia, but at least questionable for a “healthy democracy” is the selection of candidates. As if elections inside the parties were not an option, party leaders decide among themselves on the most winnable candidates – under the risk of being sabotaged by the dropped hopefuls. For the Barisan Nasional this must be a tricky procedure given their attempt to renew the party with 40% fresh candidates. See also Straits Times, 11 April:
Candidate list

Malaysia’s GE 13: 1.5 million pensioner votes for BN?


Partyforumseasia: Older voters have been mobilized world wide under the assumption that they are conservative and vote for the ruling party. PM Najib, concerned about retired top civil servants joining the opposition PR, tries to woo the over 700.000 retired civil servants with the promise of increasing their pensions if they support his re-election. The calculation that the oldies can bring in their spouses’ votes as well and yield up to 1.5 million votes for BN may be too optimistic, though. And according to the Election Commission, 2.3 million or 21.69 % of Malaysia’s 13.29 million registered voters are young first timers. Will it be old BN suppporters against young opposition voters?
Retirees 1

Retirees 2

Source/Link: The Malaysian Insider, 8 April 2013

Malaysia: PAS Fields First Christian Candidate


Partyforumseasia: Since UMNO is competing for the same voter pool among rural and pious Malays, opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) has tried for some time already to open up to non-Muslims, also showing at the same time that nobody should be frightened by its Sharia policies which would apply only to Muslims. Fielding for the first time a Christian candidate in the upcoming election is certainly a significant symbolic step. It is also in line with the Pakatan Rakyat and Parti Keadilan Rakyat line of multi-racial party development in Malaysia.
Link: Straits Times 5.4.2013
PAS 5.4.13

Malaysia: “Anything But UMNO” (ABU) serious about poll watching


Partyforumseasia: Election fever is on the rise since Prime Minister Najib Razak was expected to dissolve the Malaysian Parliament nearly two years ago but hesitated to do so. Now that the election date is near, the temperature is rising even higher. For outsiders the wording of ABU leader Haris Ibrahim may sound exaggerated, but knowing how much is at stake for supporters and cronies if UMNO should lose this election, fears of manipulation don’t seem to be baseless. The Malaysian Insider (link) reports:
5 April 2013
ABU 5.4.13

Malaysia: How strong is ABU?


NajibAnwarPartyforumseasia: In many democracies the ruling parties have to face dropping popularity and voter support. That is quite normal and tends to get worse with the years in power. Malaysia, today, is deeply divided, given the general information available about arrogance of power, money politics, corruption scandals and election manipulation seen as typical for UMNO which is ruling the country since independence. In an article for the Straits Times, Singapore, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) in Kuala Lumpur, remains cautious about an opposition victory, but points out the average voters’ frustration with UMNO: the “Anything But UMNO” or ABU sentiment. Combined with the opposition strategy of attacking long term strongholds of the ruling coalition like Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak and doubts about the cleanliness of the upcoming election, ABU may tip the scale for the Pakatan Rakyat.

Link: Straits Times, 4 April 2013
Wan 4.4.13

Addendum to “Controlled media” vs. “Alternative media” in Malaysia


Partyforumseasia: If this is serious it is probably too late for a decisive impact on the GE13, but it is a rather dramatic introduction for the alternative broadcasting “Radio Free Malaysia”:
RFM

RADIO FREE MALAYSIA  Press release: Sunday 24th March 2013

Malaysia’s newest independent radio station begins broadcasting on Monday night. Radio Free Malaysia will be available on Medium Wave at 1359kHz each night between 9pm and 11pm local Malaysia time. The highlight of the first show will be a full-length exclusive interview with the PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, who, like other opposition figures, has been largely excluded from Malaysia’s mainstream media so far. RFM represents a ground breaking venture, because it will be transmitted from outside of Malaysia and therefore is not subject to licencing by the federal government. The station therefore aims to be free of the political interferences that have caused Malaysia’s media to become recognised as one of the most restrictive in the world. “RFM will be free of political censorship by the ruling BN coalition and plans to provide a platform for alternative ideas and viewpoints”, explains founder Clare Rewcastle Brown, who is basing the programme out of the UK.
“It is well known that all press and broadcast media currently operating in Malaysia are forced to unquestioningly support and promote the ruling BN coalition and to denigrate the opposition parties, while excluding them from the chance to put their own policies and agendas before the people”.
“It is unacceptable that Malaysia poses to the world as a democracy and is about to hold a general election, and yet it is only members of the ruling coalition (in power for the entire 50 years since independence) who are allowed to have their voices heard by the people”.Radio Free Malaysia is a sister station of the existing short wave programme Radio Free Sarawak, which broadcasts on shortwave for the benefit of indigenous communities in East Malaysia. However, the new nightly programme will operate completely independently on the more accessible Medium Wave band and use only Bahasa.“A separate team has come together to run this show and their remit is to provide two hours a day of the sort of programming that people have been unable to find on any other mainstream radio or TV in Malaysia”, says Rewcastle Brown. “Just a few days ago one independent station was forced to withdraw an interview with Anwar Ibrahim from broadcast owing to political pressures [http://www.theedgemalaysia.com/political-news/232472-bfm-anwar-interview-not-aired-due-to-regulatory-concerns.html.We do not intend to be bullied in this way and now we can bring people the interview that the authorities have tried to ban”
“Anyone wanting to find out what the opposition policies and arguments actually are will now be able to tune in to our show, which can be accessed on any radio set in Malaysia and find out. At last people without access to the internet will have the opportunity to make a more informed choice at the ballot box.It is has also been of widespread concern that mainstream media outlets are being used by BN to spread politically motivated slanders and allegations about opposition figures and their policies, while at the same time refusing to allow them the space to answer the allegations or defend themselves in any way.
“Our short two hour programme provides a very limited opportunity for people who have been attacked in the media to exercise their right to reply. It is not much, but it is better than nothing and I anticipate that people from all over Malaysia will be intrigued to be able to tune in for the first time to the opposition’s response to the barrage of attacks they have been subjected to. We intend to punch above our weight, because we are providing a much needed service unavailable elsewhere”, said Rewcastle Brown.The programme will also focus on stories, which have so far been the subject of a disgraceful blackout in the regular media, because they are judged inconvenient to BN. Only the more free on-line news platforms have been allowed to give proper coverage to such matters as the Scorpene submarine contract scandal; the corruption scandals involving the Chief Ministers of Sabah and Sarawak; the murder of the model Altantuya; the so-called ‘cowgate’ scandal and numerous other cases of corruption and controversy involving those close to the BN government.These matters are waiting to find a place on Radio Free Malaysia, so that a wider public can be made aware of the issues that have been suppressed in their regular newspapers and broadcasts, which are subjected to total censorship by ‘News Controllers’ answerable to the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, say the producers.“We would certainly be very pleased to also do interviews with any BN figures of significance who are willing to appear on our show”, confirms Rewcastle Brown. “However, they will not be getting the deliberate soft ride they are always accustomed to from the licenced media. We will ask tough questions about tough subjects, which as the people in charge of making decisions for the country they ought to be answering”.Rewcastle Brown confirms that she will not be determining content. “There is a team of Malaysian producers and presenters who will be running Radio Free Malaysia, we are merely operating out of the UK in order to avoid censorship.”.Radio Free Malaysia will also be operating a call in line so that listeners can take part in the show the toll free number is 1-800-815-309 and callers will be able to leave messages and their number at any time of the day.The Radio Show will also be accessible on-line via podcast at its website http://www.radiofreemalaysia.org/.The station, which is operating independently of major donors, has launched a drive for donations via its website. We will not be able to maintain the project unless enough members of the public come to our help to support our costs. However, we are hopeful and confident that the millions of Malaysians, who are longing for a more free and open media will support us and keep us afloat.

Radio Free Malaysia (RFM)AM/MW 1359 kHz, 2100-2300 nightly

Also: http://www.radiofreemalaysia.org/ Toll free number: 1-800-815-309

Email: info@radiofreemalaysia.org

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 2013 11:42:24 +0000

Subject: Please circulate Widely

From: info@sarawakreport.orgTo: info@radiofreemalaysia.org

And remind people that teething challenges may make for a rough and ready start, but we will improve each day!

Election manipulation: Is Southeast Asia average or world class?


Manipulation

Partyforumseasia:
Election manipulation and fraud are not unknown in Southeast Asia.
This (Link)new book  by Alberto Simpser looks already so interesting in the publisher’s advertisement that we are looking forward to have it. Here are some snippings from the introduction:
Three interesting findings:
“First, electoral manipulation is often utilized when it is patently unnecessary for victory. Second, even when electoral manipulation is needed to win, it is frequently perpetrated far beyond the victory threshold and in excess of any plausible safety margin. Third, electoral manipulation is often perpetrated blatantly, a practice that does not directly contribute to victory and goes against the intuition that, as with any cheating, the perpetrator stands only to lose if his or her activities become known. These three observations constitute what I shall call the puzzle of excessive and blatant electoral manipulation.” (p.1-2)
On the indirect effects of electoral manipulation: “…the consequences to individual citizens, politicians, bureaucrats, and organizations of their political choices and actions today depend strongly on which party ends up holding power tomorrow, and on how powerful such a party turns out to be. (p.6)
The book provides “a systematic, global picture of electoral manipulation”, based on “more than 800 multiparty, country-level elections around the world from 1990 through 2007” (p.8)

Among the empirical findings: “For example, of all executive elections that were substantially manipulated in roughly the past two decades, more than two in five were won by the manipulating party by a margin of victory exceeding 40 percent of the vote, suggesting that excessive electoral manipulation is quite common.” (p.8)

Philippines: Understanding the flawed party system


Partyforumseasia: Patronage politics in the Philippines, often described, but the parties have hardly been defined so bluntly or brutally as:

“convenient vehicles of patronage that can be set up, merged with others, split, reconstituted, regurgitated, resurrected, renamed, repackaged, recycled, refurbished, buffed up or flushed down the toilet.”

Nathan Quimpo, The left, elections, and the political party system in the Philippines, Critical Studies 37, 2005: 4-5 is being quoted with this verdict in: Hutchcroft and Rocamora, Patronage-based parties and the democratic deficit in the Philippines, in: Robison, Richard (ed), Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics, 2012: 97-119.

It sounds very sad, but Hutchcroft and Rocamora put the deficits into the proper historical perspective to understand how it could happen. And they sketch the necessary reforms to overcome the historical burden. Fortunately, the present administration under president Aquino seems to be set to push through the most urgent reforms.
Partyforumseasia: A must read for anybody who wants to understand the Philippino party system!

“Indonesian Lessons” ??!!!


See: Vedi R. Hadiz, Democracy and Money politics – The case of Indonesia, in: Robison, Richard (ed), Routledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics, 2012, pp.71-82

Partyforumseasia: Hadiz’s sober assessment on page 78 underlines our thesis that the constant use of Duvergerian (and followers’) paradigms will miss the point.
Erally Indo
Left:

Colourful campaigning (PPP) Indonesian fun style.

“The Indonesian experience since 1998 reiterates the necessity of reassessing conventional renderings of electoral politics and of political parties. It is hardly useful to label Indonesia’s parties as ‘immature’, ‘irrational’ or ‘neo-patrimonial’ on the basis of idealized notions of party roles in Western liberal democracies. In the context of post-authoritarian societies like Indonesia, political parties as they exist currently – able to utilize money politics and even political thuggery when necessary – are quite suited for the purposes of the range of predatory interests that dominate them. It may be said that there is an internal logic to political party life and electoral competition that does not make internal transformations very likely in the foreseeable future. In fact, given the experience of democracies which have emerged in recent times, such as those in Southeast Asia, the liberal pluralist model associated with the Western experience may become increasingly exceptional.”