NOVEMBER 8 — How much anger can a party election generate? I’m not sure, but if it is about setting records, then the ongoing #PemilihanPKR2018 is the bomb.
Phantom voter claims overlapped by internet jammers. Candidates scream — when not being punched — inside halls while their supporters scan for non-genuine voters they’d attack. Elections suspended, delayed or status to be updated soon. Just scenes of chaos, and there is no more the excuse the government is behind these. Because PKR is the government now.
Why so angry?
The fury appears to be the result of a combination of factors, from an error-strewn poll to faction fanaticism.
As the largest party in Parliament, PKR sullies the notion democracy is on the up in Malaysia, with these weekend displays, which have been the rage for over a month.
As the party in line to run the country, regular Malaysians are justified to be mortified by its election proceedings.
But for this columnist, it has been about what’s glaringly absent, a party-wide regret over the spectacle. And from that apologies from its leaders, all of its leaders.
To say sorry for a disgrace of an election.
Incoming president Anwar Ibrahim expressed disdain and speaks of action against transgressors, but neither him, nor “cartel chief” Azmin Ali nor “Invoke leader” Rafizi Ramli have apologised for what has become a full-blown orgy of madness.
Why should leaders apologise?
Because the punches are thrown by their supporters. It takes two to tango and about 15 out-of-control members for fisticuffs outside a polling booth.
Saifuddin Nasution, party secretary-general, and several leaders have attempted to play down the violence by characterising the contests as friendly competition among leaders to help the party. A sort of sibling rivalry with no harm intended. The first among many problems with that assertion is that it’s objectively untrue.
There is a problem; in fact, it’s a massive systemic problem. Brushing it aside does not flatter PKR.
Are leaders responsible for their supporters?
Living in a time where football clubs are fined heavily if their fans are unruly, violent or racists, it is hardly conjuncture to place blame at the feet of their leaders when supporters go amok.
There is a culture of aggression inside PKR, which mirrors Umno, which its leaders harness for their political goals rather than as something they would oppose.
When supporters head to vote centres convinced the other side is about to cheat, they are bound to react. Surely, after initial problems, the leaders had opportunities to discourage poor behaviour. It appears the sides are of the opinion that the naked machismo is actually an advantage. Somehow by exhibiting brute strength it portrays to the wider membership that their faction is strong and is deserving of support.
Seemingly, and they have to own up about their complicity.
An apology is different from a statement to act on the situation.
When the party and leaders reassure that action will be taken against troublemakers, they disassociate themselves from the violence. As if all of it emerges from a vacuum and thoroughly independent of their own role.
The blame game is cowardly, and worst, invites repeats. When the real causes are not confronted, in fact not even conceded, what persists is a denial of the truth.
Evidence, political education and engagement are not at the forefront of my party’s operations. Power is. When power is considered in isolation it tends to be about possessing it, not administrating it.
So yes, an apology is a step forward.
So much to regret
Is the violence alone?
The violence has correlations with other mistakes, which by themselves would require apologies.
The electronic election system was not ready. A system is not robust purely by it succeeding in controlled and limited environments.
Which is why technology products are only as good as the effort expanded to cover all the bases in worst case scenarios, and to repeat them, especially the human factor. This was not the case with PKR.
New technology is often invisible to the casual participant, which is why they are forgotten until they fail, in which case, participants are up in arms. When mistakes dominate, confidence dissipates, and the overly pedestrian excuses which follow only multiply the scepticism.
It was not ready.
The membership roll has been attacked and the developments in Julau with the authorities involved must alarm all. This issue has legs and I would be unsurprised if more “facts” are unravelled before the party’s congress next weekend.
The stage by stage voting is unnecessary. By dragging out the vote to nearly two months, it overtakes other responsibilities and grows incendiary.
Too dragged out, too much politicking dominates he agenda. After problems every election, surely the next step is to complete voting nationwide on one day.
Yes, plenty to rue over this party election.
How about the rest?
This in no way suggests PKR is a stark anomaly in the Malaysian political spectrum.
DAP has had experiences with power hoarding and members’ ownership of the party diluted. Umno elections — when they had power — were scenes of flying chairs and bruised bodies. Pribumi has membership inaccuracies and for PAS membership is an elaborate exercise to be submissive to clerics.
It is valid the observation Malaysian politics is about a thin crust of politicians ganged up strategically, for the purposes of procuring power through the ballot box, where their party ideology, members and the eligible voters are only details to be managed.
The miseducation of Malaysians about their politics has led to this dysfunctional reality and it would need real visionaries to lead Malaysians — in and out of the political party carnage — to mature politics.
The last word on the PKR elections, is about the next one. There needs to be another in three years’ time, 2021, which would be before the next general election which would be presumably in 2022.
I doubt there will be one, as the party would likely delay internal polls by using the general election as an excuse.
But for now, I’d settle for an apology. All the other healings can follow.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.