BN yet to impress the Chinese, poll reveals

By Clara Chooi (Malaysian Insider)
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — The Chinese will continue to rebuff the Barisan Nasional (BN) if the ruling coalition refuses to implement reforms that will see a fairer distribution of power for the economically-powerful community, according to a recent survey.
According to the synopsis of the poll, conducted by a Malaysian research house between June 27 and July 25, it was found that while Chinese voters were quickly moving away from ethnic-based politics, their political mindset continues to be severely hampered by their anger with the BN government over being treated unfairly and ignored in national policies.
To that effect, 70 per cent of the community now agree that a two-party system was better than the country’s present political makeup, largely due to the inability of the ruling party to address long-standing issues, namely that of unequal treatment of the races.
Those polled also expressed disgust and high scepticism at the ruling party’s penchant for spouting sweet-sounding promises to woo the non-Malay vote during elections, a trend that was evident during the country’s last two by-elections.
In both the Hulu Selangor and Sibu by-elections, a scant number of Chinese votes went to the BN candidate, indicating that the community was not impressed with the ruling party’s ambitious promises.
In Hulu Selangor, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak committed RM3 million to the refurbishment of a Chinese primary school in Rasa. In Sibu, the premier made his infamous “I help you, you help me” RM5 million pledge for flood mitigation in Rejang Park.
Despite this, the Chinese continued to turn a cold shoulder on the BN and in both by-elections, taunted by the opposition as “buy-elections”, the community only contributed some 30 per cent of their votes to the ruling party.
As such, a mere 66 per cent of those polled in the survey expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of political leaders in making similar election promises, often times revolving around funding for the community’s associations, temples and vernacular schools.
To the community, such promises were merely a form of vote-buying and remained insincere so long as there was no progress in efforts to ensure their fair treatment in national policy-making.
The survey polled the opinions of 590 Chinese and 413 Malay respondents via the telephone and included five focus group discussions with Chinese voters in several locations across Peninsular Malaysia.
However, while the Chinese dislike being showered with election sweeteners, their political mindsets continue to be fuelled by their dissatisfaction over being unfairly treated.
They do not think that giving benefits to the non-Malays equalled to being unfair to Malay voters.
Instead, Chinese voters believe that giving benefits to the non-Malays is more an act of fairness to the community rather than an act of unfairness to the Malays.
The survey also discovered that contrary to common perception, an overwhelming majority — 90 per cent — of Chinese voters feel that unity among Malaysians was more important than unity in their own community.
This was further supported by the fact that 66 per cent of the community believed that improving the quality of education in all types of schools was more important than protecting Chinese vernacular schools.
Only 28 per cent of respondents polled believed otherwise.
The focus group discussions revealed that the quality of education was the primary concern of parents when selecting schools for their children.
The reason why many preferred to send their children to Chinese schools was mostly due to the perception of the higher standard of teaching in Chinese schools.
A majority of the Chinese are also against the practice of detention without trial, a provision famously enshrined under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The poll found that 66 per cent of them were against it while 20 per cent agreed with it.
The main reason found for the community’s dissent against preventive laws like the ISA and the Sedition Act was due to their understanding of human rights and their belief that such laws have been abused and were mainly used to target dissidents and opposition leaders.
Despite this, a larger portion of the Chinese feel that economic development was more important than democratic development, with 49 per cent of voters in agreement and 34 per cent feeling otherwise.
From the results of the polls, it can be reasonably concluded that the Chinese voters’ support for development in the democratic process was largely due to their feelings of disempowerment and pragmatism.