The era of buying political loyalty with schools, promises of new roads, temples or cash handouts is long over. Any party that wants the people's vote will have to make the effort to reconnect with the people.
THERE is really no mystery as to how the DAP came from behind and snatched the Sibu parliamentary constituency from the Barisan Nasional.
Sibu has been a Barisan bastion in Sarawak for generations but a magnificent campaign by the underdog won over the bulk of the Chinese voters who make up about 65% of the 54,000-electorate.
Although the winning majority was just under 400 votes, the DAP's achievement is all the more significant because it is a peninsular Malaysia-based party fighting against local giant Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) that was assisted by the state Barisan coalition, headed for the last 30 years by Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the long-staying Chief Minister.
Ironically, it was Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who faced the brunt of the DAP campaign, since he broke precedent by visiting Sibu several times and campaigning in Chinese-majority areas as well as trying to answer the legitimate questions raised by the DAP during the campaign.
Taib was rarely seen at the hustings except in the Malay/Melanau majority areas where the bulk of the votes went to the Barisan. If not for the “Najib” factor, the Barisan would have been routed by a bigger majority, political insiders say.
The defeat in Sibu and the fact that Chinese voters, as in the recent Hulu Selangor by-election, had cast their support for the Pakatan Rakyat once again begs the question - why is Barisan not getting the Chinese votes?
One reason why the Chinese are shying away is because the Barisan is trapped in an old mindset and not addressing the new issues confronting not just the Chinese community but all Malaysians who desire a free, fair and egalitarian society founded on the Rule of Law and not one based on the whims and fancies of powerful individuals.
The era of dishing out “development aid” for votes is long over. It did not work in the 2008 general election and it did not work in the by-elections since then.
It is the job of governments to apply themselves to developing the country in a fair and just manner. It is unacceptable to offer aid during an election period in return for votes.
The era of buying political loyalty with schools, promises of new roads, building of temples or cash handouts are also long over.
While it might work for some rural communities, it does not for others, more sophisticated urban communities.
It did not work in Hulu Selangor and clearly not in Sibu either. The majority of the voters in Sibu rallied instead to the DAP's call to make a stand, to reject the collusion between pork barrel politics, big business and the political masters behind them.
In Sibu, the long suffering small man, alienated by big business and the arrogance of the politics of patronage, rebelled.
It all came together for the DAP - a SUPP long disconnected from the small man in Sarawak; politicians who have long overstayed their welcome; and the neglect of local communities by an administration disconnected from the small man.
It seems obvious - to win political loyalty the Barisan has to reconnect with the people, address urban grievances, show concern and compassion for the hard-hit people and promote transparency and accountability in the administration.
If the Barisan is ever going to win over the younger generation, it has to talk the language of youth, it has to put out to pasture the political over-stayers, and it has to address urban grievances.
It is not the job of one man, as in Najib, but the whole administration.
No matter what anyone says, the DAP rule in Penang is a showcase of good and efficient management.
While it is not visionary, it is not corrupt either. It is accountable and transparent and ratepayers are confident they are getting good returns for their taxes. Altogether, it makes for a credible Pakatan Rakyat administration.
While the PKR, which is rife with dissension, was of not much help for the DAP, the more disciplined and principled PAS helped to convinced voters that a vote for DAP is not a vote for an Islamic state.
PAS did not dent Barisan's Malay/Melanau/Iban voter bank but it laid to rest fears among Chinese voters that voting DAP would indirectly support the rise of Islamic extremism.
In the end, the majority of Sibu voters were ready for change as elsewhere and while the DAP managed to tap into this vein promising change and good governance, the Barisan was caught in the old mindset of handing out goodies and not meeting the deep desire among voters for a genuine transformation in governance.