Is PM Najib’s notorious self-confidence evaporating?


PM Najib looking more skeptical than normally

Partyforumseasia:  The die is cast“. Prime Minister Najib Razak did not say it nor is he Julius Caesar, and there is no guarantee that he has the latter’s legendary luck. But the Star newspaper is already speculating that the day of the dissolution of parliament, which paves the way for the long expected election (GE 14), on 7/4 adds up to Najib’s lucky number. The 11, they say, is meaningful throughout his life, from the birthdays of his parents, to his official car plates, and only last week 11 measures worth 2.9 billion RM to support Malay (bumiputra) SMEs. So far, the Prime Minister and uncontested leader of Malaysia’s ruling coalition and dominant UMNO party, was seen as not leaving anything to luck in preparation for the upcoming election. His strategy to divide and emasculate the opposition on unprecedented levels culminated last week with a controversial delineation exercise by the Election Commission which is under his department and not really independent. Another blow against the new Malay opposition party PPBM (United Indigenous Party) came from the Registrar of Societies on allegedly missing formalities which have been met from the beginning according to the PPBM leadership.

Is PM Najib getting nervous?
The long list of election-related moves could be an indication that Najib has access to information about a groundswell against UMNO and himself and starts to get nervous, maybe even frightened. Against all the odds, his self-declared nemesis, veteran PM Mahathir Mohamad (92), seems to rally not only the opposition, but making inroads into the classical Malay vote banks of the ruling coalition.

Dr. M laughs
Will he have the last laugh?

The most vulnerable spots in Najib’s flanks are the still unresolved 1MDB-scandal, though he denied any wrongdoing, skillfully following strategy handbooks, and the festering unhappiness of many Malaysians with the ever rising cost of living. Pacifying all grieving subgroups costs many billions and the increasing spending exercises of the Prime Minister start to betray a growing nervousness about what he calls “the father of all elections”.
Partyforumseasia has argued for some years already that Najib and UMNO must win the election at any cost because a defeat would be a catastrophy of Greek drama dimensions for the ruling system and its enormous internal  cash flows. One of the newest indicators are threats by the UMNO leadership against “disappointed” candidates who are not fielded any more. They might “betray” their party and will be dealt with after the election. Najib and UMNO have not left any important stone unturned. But all these unprecedented efforts, obviously very costly for the taxpayers, seem to increasingly damage the nimbus of the ruling party’s invincibility.

Tan Sri Hashim Gerry from the EC Malaysia?


Partyforumseasia: On Wednesday, 28 March, the Malaysian Parliament approved the redrawn electoral maps with 129 to 80 votes, safe enough to reach the simple majority of 112. Ruling coalition and opposition were given only one hour each for debate, while opposition and critics outside parliament accused the motion of gerrymandering in favor of the Malay vote banks in predominantly rural areas. Prime Minister Datuk Seri NajibNajib, in his cold-blooded style, declared the Election Commission (EC), which happens to be under his Prime Minister’s department, as impartial and the changes as only for the benefit of the Malaysian people. The critics, on the other hand, call it gerrymandering and they do have a valid point here. While the redelineation of electoral boundaries is common everywhere when demographic changes like urbanization make it necessary, the malapportionment in Malaysia is exceptional. In the 2013 election, the number of voters per precinct ranged from 15,700 for the smallest rural to 145,000 for the biggest urban one. And, not by chance, the most reliable voters for the ruling Bairsan Nasional (BN) coalition live in the small rural districts. This is why, in 2013, and also due to the first-past-the-post majoritarian election system, a shortfall of 4% in the popular vote was changed into a 20% majority of seats. On average, BN constituencies were won with 48,000 votes, while the opposition needed 79,000.

The original 1812 gerrymander

Elbridge Gerry was the famous governor of Massachusetts who started the delineation trick in 1812 to benefit his Democratic Republican Party. And one of the precincts looked like a dragon or salamander, hence the new notion of gerrymandering.

If demographic change necessitates corrections, the opposition would normally accept fair changes. And in most democracies, these changes are being executed quietly, most voters don’t care. The Malaysian last minute exercise, however, is stirring up protest because it happens so closely before the elections expected in May. This might turn out to be a strategic mistake of PM Najib, who has already procrastinated with the election date due latest in August. So far, he has braved all the pressure created by the 1MDB financial and other scandals and pacified many unhappy former supporters with financial largesse. But the delay has given the opposition more time to rally under former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who is all out to topple Najib.
It looks debatable whether the redrawn boundaries are strictly following the demographic changes. If the opposition is right, they do follow ethnic patterns as well, like in Subang close to Kuala Lumpur. The borders, at least, look increasingly complicated and salamander-like as shown in this 2013 – 2018 comparison.
Map: Singapore’s Straits Times (LINK)

 

Cambridge Analytica Malaysia


Partyforumseasia: The ongoing controversy around political data mining has catapulted the discreet services of Cambridge Analytica (CA) into the international limelight. CA has obviously played an important role in Donald Trump‘s victory over Hillary Clinton, and its utilization of Facebook data is now in the center of the storm. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, one of the brilliant young data experts in CA, has made public the dubious methods applied by the company.

Having offices in New York, Washington, and London, in countries where election campaigns are known to be sophisticated and dirty, Brazil is another client country, and there is only one more: Malaysia! The looming election (GE14), expected to be called in May, hasCA 7 already triggered a heated exchange of suspicions and accusations, since CA had been hired by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in the 2013 election to win back the federal state of Kedah from the opposition. Obviously learning only now that the BN had hired CA, the opposition wants to know details about Prime Minister Najib‘s role in the deal. Najib, as usual, denies everything and directs all the blame on Mukhriz Mahathir, former chief minister of Kedah when he was still member of UMNO, and in charge of the 2013 campaign. Mukhriz, in turn, denies any involvement, even knowledge of Cambridge Analytica.

NajibMukhriz 2

Whatever will eventually come to the surface, a glimpse into the services of Cambridge Analytica must create respect, if not admiration, for the technical ingenuity of this company. It is indeed combining all sorts of campaign instruments and strategies with the new opportunities provided by social media and internet penetration, including the dirty tricks which have tarnished the lofty democratic ideals of the United States. What is the background of CA and its parent company SLC Group, a data giant with 25 years experience in helping governments and military organization in over 60 countries with “behavioral change programs” (SLC homepage)? Involved were controversial figures like Steve Bannon and Russian experts, and the funding was mainly provided by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, one of the prominent supporters of Donald Trump.

For anybody who has participated in election campaigns, the services of CA Political, the campaign branch of CA, must look more than attractive. They have been paid with many millions world wide and are certainly affordable for potential clients like UMNO. The branch office in Kuala Lumpur is not there by accident. And the revelations might impact the coming campaign and the chances of the opposition.

Here are some excerpts from the CA homepage (LINK, which might disappear any time from now if the scandal widens):

Experience an end-to-end campaign service

POLLING
With one of the best track records of accuracy in the industry, we will provide you with in-depth polling to advise informed decision making.

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS
The global leader in predictive analytics, CA Political provides precise insights that will allow you to forecast voter behavior.

TV AND DIGITAL AD PLACEMENT
Through our detailed models, predictive analytics, and sophisticated ad-tech, you can find the most effective locations for ad placement and meaningfully impact your voters.

LIST BUILDING
Accumulate email addresses and an organic following in order to fundraise more efficiently and distribute campaign material.

EVENT PROMOTION, VOLUNTEER RECRUITMENT, APP PROMOTION
Rally supporters, promote your campaign events, and increase attendance through our creative and precisely targeted messaging.

REAL-TIME REPORTING
With our up-to-date reports, you will stay informed on the progress of your campaign and assess your voters’ reactions to the campaign in real-time.

PERSUASION
More effectively engage and persuade voters using specially tailored language and visual ad combinations crafted with insights gleaned from behavioral understandings of your electorate.

GET OUT THE VOTE (GOTV)
Drive organized and methodical ballot initiatives, targeting the voters who could swing the election in your favor.

Some clients: