Electoral Dynamics In Malaysia: Findings From The Grassroots

Malaysia’s 13th general election, held 5th May 2013, saw an unprecedentedly close race between the incumbent Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance, Pakatan) coalitions. For the first time in Malaysian history, a challenger coalition not only kept the BN from regaining the two-thirds parliamentary super-majority it had lost in the previous election, in 2008, but eked out a slim majority of the popular vote. While any Malaysian election is a big event, this one in particular merits close scrutiny. The present volume offers evidence and analysis with which to probe both the merits of common interpretations of who voted how, and why, and to suggest new readings of Malaysian electoral politics.

Drawing upon extensive ethnographic research in constituencies nationwide, this exploration of campaign processes and promises breaks new ground in offering a grassroots view of a hotly-contested election. The volume offers a set of case studies of parliamentary and state-level contests, detailing campaign messages, strategies and apparent patterns. These case studies reveal both phenomena common across states and coalitions, and more region- or party-specific findings. Chapters examine the salience of deeply-penetrating partisan structures, including the specific roles of women in both coalitions’ campaigns; flows of resources to and from candidates and voters, from targeted patronage and promises of development, to over-the-top advertisements, to anonymous donations; the place of both online and mainstream media; the importance for voter mobilisation of both identity-based and issue-oriented networks; and how the different campaign teams functioned on a day-to-day basis. These findings are valuable not only as a lens on an especially fraught fifteen days in Malaysian electoral history, but for what they reveal about identity, ideology and interests in Malaysian politics and society.

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Malaysia’s 13th general election, held 5th May 2013, saw an unprecedentedly close race between the incumbent Barisan Nasional (National Front, BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance, Pakatan) coalitions. For the first time in Malaysian history, a challenger coalition not only kept the BN from regaining the two-thirds parliamentary super-majority it had lost in the previous election, in 2008, but eked out a slim majority of the popular vote. While any Malaysian election is a big event, this one in particular merits close scrutiny. The present volume offers evidence and analysis with which to probe both the merits of common interpretations of who voted how, and why, and to suggest new readings of Malaysian electoral politics.

Drawing upon extensive ethnographic research in constituencies nationwide, this exploration of campaign processes and promises breaks new ground in offering a grassroots view of a hotly-contested election. The volume offers a set of case studies of parliamentary and state-level contests, detailing campaign messages, strategies and apparent patterns. These case studies reveal both phenomena common across states and coalitions, and more region- or party-specific findings. Chapters examine the salience of deeply-penetrating partisan structures, including the specific roles of women in both coalitions’ campaigns; flows of resources to and from candidates and voters, from targeted patronage and promises of development, to over-the-top advertisements, to anonymous donations; the place of both online and mainstream media; the importance for voter mobilisation of both identity-based and issue-oriented networks; and how the different campaign teams functioned on a day-to-day basis. These findings are valuable not only as a lens on an especially fraught fifteen days in Malaysian electoral history, but for what they reveal about identity, ideology and interests in Malaysian politics and society.

 

Publisher: ISEAS

Paperback

2014

ISBN: 9789670630083