We all live in our different political echo chambers, whether in our circle of friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, business associates, coffee shop discussions, in bars over beer or in some social media group, to the extent that we eventually come round to proverbially "eat our own dog food" and believe that every one else beyond our little circle has the same political views and priorities as us and will vote the same way as us.
However, time and time again, after the election results roll in, we wonder why the political coalition we though would lose, instead won with a pretty decent majority and we then hurl all sorts of epithets and accusations at those who voted for our nemesis,including denouncing them as "ignorant", "easily bought off" and so forth.
What we, comfortable in our urban, middle-class circles do not realise however, is that such "deplorables" (to borrow Clinton's term during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections), may have different pressing concerns than ours, such as whilst they may be more concerned over a lack of clean and reliable electricity and water supply in their areas, we are more concerned that the 10Mbps fibre Internet service we have subscribed to only delivers 8Mbps at best or that according to Speedtest.net, fixed Internet download speeds in our neighbour Singapore clocked 180.61 Mbps on average between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017; or whilst residents in public housing flats in Pantai Dalam or Kampung Kerinchi may have have had to take the stairs up 20 storeys because the lifts had broken down or are slow and have not been repaired for a long time despite repeated complaints, residents in Bangsar (a prime middle and upper-middle class residential area across the Federal Highway which comes under the same parliamentary constituency of Lembah Pantai), may complain about the the high price of luxury cars due to the weak ringgit exchange rate to the U.S. dollar, plus the import tariffs on the car, or about the high price of premium single-malt whisky, premium brandy or wine.
Rarely do we get to hear or read accounts by people who have gone down to the ground and have assessed these different concerns first hand.
Following below is an article by The Star's Philip Golingai on Saturday, 24 Mar 2018 which describes the different concerns which he observed first hand amongst people on the ground in Sabah as well as rural and semi-rural parts of Malaysia, and how these influence voting patterns amongst such people.
Different bubbles, different stories - One Man's Meat
by philip golingai
Saturday, 24 Mar 2018
AN armchair politico based in Petaling Jaya got out of his WhatsApp bubble and visited Kota Kinabalu for business.
In my hometown, he spoke to Uber drivers, businessmen and salesgirls. Two days into his trip, he excitedly called me.
“The Opposition will win Sabah!!!” he said.
Surprised, I asked: “On what basis?”
“I spoke to Sabahans and overwhelmingly they said they will vote against Barisan Nasional,” he said.
“Can I guess where you went?” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“Did you go to Api Api, Luyang, Likas, Inanam, Kapayan and Moyog?” I said, naming state seats that were in or adjacent to Kota Kinabalu.
“I think so,” he said.
I then asked him to describe the places where he did his political tourism. They matched my guess. And I had to burst his bubble.
“Of course you think the Opposition will win, because you visited seats that the Opposition had won in GE13,” I said.
“Try going to other seats next to Kota Kinabalu, such as Tanjung Aru, Petagas and Karambunai. Visit the Bajau villages. Visit the ‘photocopy’ Malaysians in Pulau Gaya or visit Putatan town,” I said.
“The voters will tell a different story. These seats are Umno strongholds.”
In GE13, Barisan Nasional won 48 out of the 60 Sabah state seats. And if my armchair politico friend travelled to other seats in the East Coast or East Coast and in the interior that Barisan had won, he would have been utterly disappointed.
But then again, he might not, as he would have probably spoken to people in town areas and he would have got the impression that Sabah was black for Barisan.
He needs to get out of town to see political reality.
(In political intelligence lingo, black means seats that Barisan will lose; grey is for seats that can go either way and white is seats that Barisan will win.)
The moral of this story is that if you remain in your urban political bubble, you’ll think the Opposition will win. There are other political bubbles outside your bubble. And they tell a different story.
The other thing is that Uber and Grab drivers are also a misleading source of political information.
I’ve taken Uber and Grab in Alor Setar, Ipoh, Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. And, in my unscientific survey, I would say six out of 10 of them are anti-government.
These are the type who blame Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for everything.
One of the main reasons is that they don’t want to be a “glamorous” ride-hailing driver. But they have to work full-time or part-time for Grab or Uber because they have to. And they blame Najib for their career choice.
Three out of 10 are neutral or clueless about politics. They have no interest in politics.
They don’t know that Amanah exists. Or that DAP’s Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming may challenge Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong for the Teluk Intan MP seat. Or that the motion on the Election Commission’s redelineation exercise will be tabled on Wednesday.
What they know is Malaysian pop diva Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza is now a mother and her baby weighs 3.55kg and was delivered by Caesarean section at 8.17am on Monday.
One out of 10 are pro-Barisan or are neutral. Neutral as in the driver is not rigidly black and white in his political views. He’s reasonable as he sees the grey in politics.
Back to my favourite topic – political bubbles.
When you go out of your urban political bubble and enter the rural Malay bubble, it is a different world.
However, many urban voters have not stepped out of the Klang Valley and visit the Ulu Tebrau Felda settlement in Johor or Kampung Tanjung Siam in Pedu, Kedah.
These are rural seats dominated by Umno and PAS.
Why do you think Pakatan Harapan accepted Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia into its fold? It knows that without PAS, it can’t make a dent in the rural Malay seats.
The rural voters have different needs. Which reminds me of a conversation I had with a Sabah MP.
“MPs from Klang Valley will bring up issues such as slow Internet connection, whereas MPs from Sarawak will be asking why there is no electricity or water supply in the constituency,” he said.
A DAP MP, representing a constituency that has pockets of Malay villages, explained to me what parachuted potential opposition candidates were doing wrong when they spoke to rural voters.
“They talk about 1MDB. For the villagers, it is a complex issue. They don’t understand or care about the issue. What they are interested is whether the price of rubber will go up or whether they can get a fertiliser subsidy,” he said.
A PAS assemblyman in Kedah told me that rural Malay voters were swayed by the 3Rs – religion, race and royalty. An Amanah politician in Johor lamented that it was difficult to win over villagers as Umno took care of them from birth to wedding to funeral.
When the armchair politico returned to Petaling Jaya, he WhatsApp-ed me: “What’s carpet bombing (a Sabah term that means voters bombed with money)?”
Looks like he is beginning to understand a political bubble outside his.
Pardon the digression but most Uber drivers being anti-establishment hmmm!!! Well I've heard that one of my former colleagues who wrote for the information technology pullout of The Star and later for its information technology pages for many years, had fairly recently left to drive Uber.
Well with The Star reportedly planning to offer up to 200 staff a mutual separation scheme (MSS) - basically a retrenchment package, plus The Star's report on 23 February 2018 that business weekly Focus Malaysia's new owner Inno Mind Works, a digital branding and marketing agency, was expected back then to have had plans to retrench two thirds of its current staff and with The Malaysian Insight's Editor and Chief Executive Officer, Jahabar Sadiq announcing Friday 23 March 2018 that the online-only publication would suspend publication "next week" (from today, I suppose) https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/44666/ I would not be surprised at all if many more veteran journalists will end up having to drive Uber or Grab for a living.
After all, taxis are one of the few industries which provide mass employment in the much touted "Information Age", whilst "Second Wave" manufacturing and assembly plants ("sunset industries" according to futurist paperback writers who have since vanished off the media and seminar circuit radar screens, especially since the financial crisis of 2007-2008) are moving to lower wage neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and China, all of which are experiencing a sunrise thanks to the arrival of more of these "sunset industries" which provide their people with mass employment opportunities.
Now back to the main topic of this post, in the following article in the Malay Mail of 4 October 2017, Kamles Kumar describes the clash of priorities between the elites and "deplorables" within the Lembah Pantai consituency itself, and urban constituency on the edge of Kuala Lumpur.
In Lembah Pantai, class divide hints which way votes will go | Malaysia
By Kamles Kumar
Wednesday October 4, 2017
Pak Abu has run a local grocer in Taman Angkasa for over 20 years. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaKUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Lembah Pantai in Kuala Lumpur is not just home to the affluent Bangsar enclave, but also a significant working class in Pantai Dalam and Kerinchi.
Separated by the Federal Highway, the middle- and upper-middle class residents of the former area live virtually detached from neighbours in the flats and government quarters who are also voters in the same constituency.
The class distinction makes the urban seat one with a split personality, and one that will be closely watched amid rumours that incumbent Nurul Izzah Anwar (PKR) may make way for another candidate.
She defeated two ministers in succession to take and keep the seat, first Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil in 2008 and Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin in 2013.
Raja Nong Chik is now rumoured to be eyeing a comeback in the seat.
Ahead of the 14th general election, Malay Mail Online visited the constituency to discover vastly different attitudes among voters there.
Those in Bangsar were more politically aware and wanted a representative who could speak on national issues, such as policies and laws.
Over in Pantai Dalam and Kerinchi, respondents valued a lawmaker who was accessible and could be seen serving his/her electorate.
They said they preferred an MP who was concerned about their immediate welfare and prepared to contribute to local events such as celebrations, deaths, and weddings.
Residents of the Taman Angkasa flats in Pantai Dalam still sang Raja Nong Chik’s praises, and noted that the former federal territories and urban wellbeing minister was regularly present despite his defeat to Nurul Izzah nearly five years ago.
Criticising the incumbent as absent, one resident pointedly compared Raja Nong Chik to her father, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, and said both men were from the generation of politicians that put in the work meeting constituents.
Retiree Haji Mansor Ibrahim shops for groceries at Lembah Pantai. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
“Nong Chik is like Anwar, he is always on the ground unlike his daughter. The daughter doesn’t come here often. Her father is good, not her,” the man known as Pak Abu told Malay Mail Online when met.
Pak Abu has run a local grocer here for over 20 years, and said one of the reasons he has been able to sustain the business is because of Nong Chik.
Another resident, 67-year-old Haji Mansor Ibrahim, also accused Nurul Izzah of making false and empty promises, and said there was growing discontent with her among residents here.
“She comes for awhile and then leaves. She doesn’t even sit and listen to our complaints. She is posing in pictures, it is just that. Nothing is real,” he laments.
Raja Nong Chik’s latest contribution to the community was to paint all the blocks in the flat units here, drawing praise from residents.
Surroundings of the low-cost Taman Angkasa Flats in Lembah Pantai. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaThey were particularly taken by the fact that he continued to serve despite losing in 2013.
“Even though they (BN) has lost two times here, development is still done here. We get facilities. Recently, Nong Chik painted all the blocks without us asking. That is how a MP is supposed to be,” businessman Khalid Ibrahim told Malay Mail Online.
The theme of Nurul Izzah’s rarity was not unique to the Malay community, with the complaint also repeated among Indian voters.
Kerinchi PPR resident Iyan Perumal has voted four times in Lembah Pantai. — Picture by Yusof Mat IsaKerinchi public housing resident Iyan Perumal said Nurul Izzah is too busy making a name for herself on the national level to be bothered about the welfare of the folks in her constituency.
“She doesn’t really help much. She’s done nothing much, especially for the Indians
“She speaks for herself, not for us. She speaks in Parliament because she wants to be heard,” he told Malay Mail Online when met.
In remarks that suggest a brewing backlash among Lembah Pantai’s hoi polloi, they also blamed voters in affluent Bangsar for subjecting them to two terms of representation by the PKR vice president.
They accused her of bias towards the middle class, unlike Raja Nong Chik whom they claimed paid more heed to them.
“She appears only in Bangsar area. If not she won’t be here. We ask her come here also to no avail. She talks more to the Chinese. That’s why they vote for her,” Salleh Asnawi from Kerinchi told Malay Mail Online.
Pak Abu said that the voters in Pantai Dalam, especially in the Taman Angkasa area, were solidly behind BN and — if he is selected — Raja Nong Chik.
Moving to Bangsar, the response to Nurul Izzah was markedly more favourable.
For Bangsar-born business development manager Mayilai Kumaran Jeyaratnam, Nurul Izzah’s contributions transcended Lembah Pantai.
Businessman Anuar Puteh believes the Opposition has made Lembah Pantai a better constituency. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa“She is an agent of change. She is a more able MP than Nong Chik would be. People want a change in the whole country, so they vote for her,” the 29-year old said.
Businessman Anuar Puteh from Lucky Garden said that as people in the constituency were independent and well-off, they did not rely on federal aid or handouts from the lawmaker to go about their lives.
He said they were also more forgiving as they understood that Nurul Izzah was an opposition MP.
“Her budget is limited and what she raises sometimes is not bothered by the federal government,” he said.
The former civil servant also said Nurul Izzah has helped her consistency by raising matters in Dewan Rakyat that also affect the people in the area.
“I’m not taking any sides, but she has raised relevant issues in Parliament. We have to pay for tax and it’s our money.
“We should know as citizens how our money is being spent. We have rights and MPs help raise this on our behalf,” Anuar added.
The affinity for Nurul Izzah in the more affluent sections of Lembah Pantai also was not personal to her, with respondents saying they would support the candidate after her, in the event that rumours of her moving are true.
Long-time Bangsar resident Tony Eu pledged his unwavering support to PKR and Nurul Izzah. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa“The current state of affairs is very bad. We will vote for the Opposition, we want them to win. There is no problem in another candidate, as long it is nominated by her,” 74-year-old Tony Eu told Malay Mail Online.
Some Lembah Pantai voters have also expressed disillusionment, saying they may not even vote in the coming polls.
A 29-year-old accountant who only wanted to be known as Nisa said she was jaded with the attack politics common on both sides.
“It’s always politicians whacking politicians. We are not moving forward. We are selfish. I might not vote at all,” she said.
In the 2013 general elections, Nurul Izzah Anwar of the PKR (Anwar Ibrahim's daughter), beat Raja Nong Chik of the BN to hold Lembah Pantai by a slim majority of of 1,847 in a total ballot of 60,366 valid votes, whilst in the 2008 general election, Nurul beat Sharizat Abdul Jalil of the BN by a majority of 2.895 votes out of 41.050 valid votes to capture Lembah Pantai for the PKR .
Nothing confirmed yet, but right now, hints have emerged that Nurul Izzah may be moved to contest in a safer seat in the upcoming 2018 general elections, which could be called in late April or early May.
So will the elites or the "deplorables" prevail in Lembah Pantai in the 2018 general elections, especially when there will now be a three cornered fight between PKR, BN and PAS, according to the blank tally table recently put up on Wikipedia?