BN’s pyrrhic victory in Hulu Selangor

Written by Dr Lim Teck Ghee (
Far from being a resounding victory for the BN and a devastating loss for Pakatan Rakyat, the Hulu Selangor election result is another clear indicator that Malaysians do not see a secure future for themselves in a continuation of the BN government.
The BN leadership may be happy about the outcome and the official media may spin about the vote of confidence for Najib’s leadership but the extremely large opposition vote – against all odds – shows that many in Hulu Selangor and throughout the country (as the string of recent by-elections demonstrates) continue to embrace the “reformasi” programme of change for the country.
From the moment, Zaid was nominated to stand in Hulu Selangor, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Paktan. This was no ordinary opponent that the PR was bringing into the fray. Thus, Zaid was a candidate that the BN had to kill off – whether by hook or by crook.
Zaid had been a Minster brought into the last Badawi cabinet to give the electorate some hope that Umno was capable of implementing a programme of change for the good of the country. He was not the usual leader who had risen to power through the opportunistic use of race and religion, and whose main agenda was aggrandizement of self and family under the guise of “untuk agama dan bangsa”.
Zaid encompasses the best qualities of a long gone era of Umno leaders – honest, principled, smart and committed. Zaid could have stayed on in the cabinet and gone on to a higher position if he was willing to compromise his ideals and integrity on law reform.
He could have engaged in the hypocritical strategy of playing with Ketuanan Melayu and Malay chauvinism. He could have spouted the Hindu or Chinese card as Umno leaders are so adapt at when they see it necessary just to stay in power. He could have played safe by pandering to the Umnoputras and other cronies that have gorged themselves (and in doing so, also padded his own egg nest). He could have so easily turned a blind eye to the abuse of power, corruption and excesses around him.
Zaid chose not to do so. He challenged the system, and in choosing the path of integrity, honour and reform, he became a marked man. The extreme fear and insecurity that his ideas and character – fused into the Pakatan’s reformasi agenda – aroused in Umno and the BN is evident in the vicious election campaign that the BN has waged in the last two weeks.
Consider the following:
* the unprecedented money splashed by Barisan Nasional to kill off PKR and Zaid. Barisan Nasional ‘hadiah’,’ angpow’ and other goodies drawn from the taxpayer-ATM machines worked overtime.
* the unprecedented low in character assassination and electioneering on the alcohol and gambling charges
* the array of dirty tricks of BN in unleashing prominent frogs, “mass defections” and exposes to discredit the PKR, Anwar Ibrahim and Zaid
* the Election Commission’s apparent de facto disenfranchisement of potential opposition voters
In the next few weeks, more details will emerge of the full scale of how desperate the BN leadership was to win Hulu Selangor and kill off Zaid and PKR.
BN supporters may be prematurely rejoicing. They may have won this round of the battle. The blatant attempts to buy off and corrupt the voting electorate – abetted by an uncritical mass media enthusiastically and uncritically reporting on the BN’s daily bag of electoral goodies and dirty tricks – has succeeded to some extent, especially amongst the older and more conservative voters.
But it will come back to bite the BN. There is no way the BN can replicate this campaign of mass saturation of money and handouts – possible in one by-election; impossible nationwide – throughout the country in the coming general election (GE).
More important, the Hulu Selangor election result has shown that there is a majority of Malaysians whose vote cannot be bought and whose ideals are not in line with the BN’s. In particular, the younger voters yearn for justice, fair play and good governance – attributes which the BN seems to be incapable of embracing.
This is the continuing nightmare that Najib, Muyhiddin and the other BN leaders will have in the nights ahead before the next GE.