Election of the decade: March 8, 2008

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — Come on, be honest. Did you expect the opposition parties, at the time yet to have the Pakatan Rakyat tag, to capture five states and deny rival Barisan Nasional its two-thirds parliamentary majority?
No one did. Not me, not you, not Nostradamus or any of the fortune tellers hustling on the streets of the nation’s major cities.
And here’s a fact. As a journalist, I’ll tell you this: the majority of the MPs and state lawmakers now from Pakatan themselves didn’t expect to be enjoying Yang Berhormat status.
Not buying it? Here’s an example:
The time was 8.16pm; the date, March 8; and I was calling PKR’s Tian Chua on his mobile phone to get updates on the poll results for the Batu constituency which he was contesting in.
His voice was sombre, almost depressed. “They’re (BN) leading by a few thousand votes…” he said in a voice telling of his emotions at that moment: that he was losing despite initial confidence that he could nail that seat.
He immediately ended the conversation with, “I gotta go.” That’s it. And, of course, my reaction was predictable; smile and sigh, “Well, life goes on.”
Of course, we all know he went on to win the seat with a comfortable majority and became one of the many newly-minted Pakatan MPs who had to literally tailor new suits as they headed for Parliament.
They were adamant to avoid being the bunch who just made history by denying BN its two-thirds majority for the first time in four decades and were badly dressed.
But the most significant and surprising segment of the March 8 saga was, of course, the Pakatan ousting of BN in four states — Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor — as the retention of Kelantan was widely predicted.
No one expected it and the person who least anticipated this outcome has got to be then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Can you imagine what was going through his mind at the time of the news that four states had just fallen to the opposition?
Anyway, the joy didn’t last long. A few months after March 8, Perak fell back into BN’s hands following the exodus of three Pakatan lawmakers (frogs, many called them) to “independent land” which is located somewhere close to Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir’s heart, if you know what I mean.
Zambry, by the way, became the new Perak Mentri Besar after BN reclaimed Perak following the trio’s declaration that they are now “independents supporting the ruling coalition (what?!)”.
Like I said, the joy of March 8 didn’t last long. While Perak was on fire, the three component parties, with their stark ideological differences, began fighting with each other.
Malaysians were now caught with a new surprise. These leaders they just elected, instead of focusing on serving those who voted them in, were now fighting over positions, over allocations, over petty differences.
Some were implicated in corruption and sex scandals. In a nutshell, these Pakatan leaders were beginning to show their true colours and it wasn’t pretty.
Maybe that’s why we, including our BN friends, were all surprised by Pakatan’s rise. If we were to be truthful, we’d have to admit that there are many representatives whom you elected who should not be where they are now.
PKR and Pakatan supremo Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim himself admitted this during the Permatang Pasir by-election. He said that there were weaknesses in their vetting system and promised to sort it out.
He better. Because though they might have surprised us with their electoral triumph on that fateful day, it won’t be much of a surprise if they lose everything come the next election… if they keep repeating the same mistakes again and again.
And it won’t be a surprise if the voters won’t ever bestow their trust upon them ever again. (Malaysian Insider)