Barisan Nasional (BN) used the wrong strategy in the 13th general election, said former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, and as a result was a blow to the coalition in spite of its victory.
Tun Daim made his remarks in an
interview with China Press. An English translation of the interview was
shared by blogger and veteran journalist A Kadir Jasin.
In the interview, Tun Daim answered
questions about the results, the cause of BN's poor showing relative to
2008, the so-called "Chinese tsunami", and whether Prime Minister Mohd
Najib Tun Abdul Razak is a "lame duck" prime minister.
Following is the full English translation of the interview
China Press: Tun, what was first in your mind when you first received the full election result? Did you expect it?
Tun Daim: I wasn't
surprised. At around 12noon the feedback I got was that - BN 141, DAP
38 but my own assessment was BN between 125 and 135 only.
Do you think this election
was a fair one? Opposition parties and NGOs still accused BN of misuse
of government facilities, and the problematic integrity of the electoral
Of course it was fair. If was
not fair how come in Penang and Selangor Pakatan improved on majorities
and Federal BN got only 133 seats? These accusations are not new. They
said all this even before the elections. I said earlier that they would
be saying all these because they know they can't get to Putrajaya.
Read my interviews before this, I
said they would be proclaiming to world they would win and that if they
don’t it’s because they have been robbed and therefore entitled to
protest, incite people, which is that they are doing now, and they want
people to go to the streets. They want FRUs, water cannons and tear
gas then CNN, Al Jazeera etc. will be back and they are back in the
Anwar and Kit Siang are inviting
police to arrest them. They want to be arrested. They are totally
irresponsible. If you see the recent rallies and that the majority of
the participants are Chinese, what do you think will happen if one
hot-headed Malay organisation wants to organise a counter rally? But
Anwar and Kit Siang don't mind, if there is another interracial
incident, they will blame BN. If you are willing to sacrifice peace and
stability for your ends, what kind of leadership is this?
They say they should be the
rightful leaders of this country, yet they defy laws, defy the police,
and they have no respect for -- and undermine -- every institution of
government which they say they should helm. What kind of leadership
promotes lawlessness and anarchy? What message do you send and what
lessons do you teach the young and the impressionable? Leadership comes
There are laws in this country.
Go to court. Of course, they say courts are not fair, yet these same
courts have acquitted Anwar. Again when it’s convenient to them they go
to the courts to sue and silence their detractors. They accept where
they won and reject where they lost. They are selective. Karpal
practices and appeals before this same Court.
Be brave and honest. Accept the
results. Karpal says he is happy with the results. PAS has accepted
them. Azmin is critical of Anwar’s refusal to accept the results and
doing these rallies, but don't read too much into his statements. It’s
like an old married couple’s quarrel, one party merajuk (sulks) but in
the end they are still together.
Anwar is already up to his
tricks -- putting out feelers to Barisan MPs. He is waiting after the
Cabinet appointments for another round of his Sept 16.
As expected in our last
interview, BN managed to retain Putrajaya but couldn't regain the
two-thirds majority. What are the main reasons?
Really you should ask BN. But in
my opinion, it was the wrong strategy. As I’ve said before, this was a
parliamentary election, not a presidential election. The PM's advisors
should be sacked. If you associate a vote for BN with a vote for him,
then BN's poorer results reflect on him too. I kept reminding them that
those huge numbers at BN’s ceramahs do not translate into votes. You
don’t try to fight his (Anwar’s) numbers with your even bigger numbers.
Let Anwar be the entertainer (borrowing from The Financial Times). We
are not entertainers, we don’t know how to sing, dance and tell
jokes. It’s a serious business electing a government, so let's
leave this clown’s strategy alone and not play his game.
If I know, then surely BN
knows that the Chinese majority areas were gone. Why waste time and
money? As a strategy, you should concentrate on those areas where you
lost by slim majorities in 2008 and strengthen the seats you won in
2008. There was also the question of choice of candidates, and for
example in Pandan, why be petty?
Many people disputed that there
was a Chinese tsunami. But there was, in the sense that Chinese voters
voted en block whilst non-Chinese votes were split. But this is their
right. This is democracy.
What was disturbing was the
reason for the en-block votes. Pakatan preached hatred for BN,
particularly UMNO. The DAP has always told the Chinese that they are
victims, marginalised; that the cup they have is always half empty; that
this is the time to teach the MCA and Gerakan a lesson for being under
UMNO’s control, that UMNO (and by extension the Malays) is dominant, and
this is a Malay-led government, and the Chinese, by voting out all the
Chinese parties in BN, are saying that they have had enough of being
bullied by UMNO/ Malays. If this is not racist, I don’t know what is.
Their cybertroopers were at
work, 24 hours a day, sending misinformation, spin, rumours, lies,
untruths etc. Where were the 'Banglas'? Where was the blackout? How many
people whose ink washed off voted twice? Tun M flew away in a private
jet? Lies and lies and the Chinese believe in "ubah" and "Ini kali lah".
I told you if the Chinese
rejected Najib's leadership, the rural votes would swing to BN. The DAP
benefited the most. PAS, I do not know how it is going to reorganise
itself. PKR we know practices nepotism, just ask Azmin.
As for the Indian votes, only
some Indians votes came back to BN. Koh Tsu Koon has announced his
retirement. Chua Soi Leik is not seeking re-election. In the West you
lose, you retire. Brown retired. Here they are not morally strong enough
to quit. Anwar stays on, Kit Siang stays on, Hadi stays on. Let me
remind you, Anwar said he would retire if he failed to get to Putrajaya.
Anwar does not keep his word. He will never retire, until the day he is
on his deathbed he will still want to be PM.
Let’s recognise that nowhere in
world is it easy to get a two-thirds majority. Urban voters everywhere
in the world are anti-government. BN's strength lies in the rural areas.
Yet too much time and money were wasted in urban areas where the
results were almost certain.
Chinese votes for the
opposition reached over 90%. Why? From your observation, why were the
MCA and Gerakan rejected by the Chinese? We still remember in 2004 the
situation was totally different.
I have explained at length the
answer above. Chinese votes for the Pakatan reached 90% because they
believed in Pakatan’s propaganda. This was at last the chance to reject
the Malay-led BN. We saw on polling day many Chinese came out in droves
believing that Pakatan was going to win. They were all misled. Pakatan
knew that they were not going to get the numbers. Imagine the Chinese
voting for PAS, when they have seen what was happening in Kedah and
Kelantan. Chinese voters were taken for a ride, told that they were
going to make the difference. If Hindraf can affect the 2008 results,
imagine what the Chinese with their bigger number can do. This was the
line given and they swallowed it. In 2004, the Chinese gave the then PM
with his clean image a chance but that got to BN’s head and 2008 was the
result. In 2013, Pakatan tapped into the Chinese and urban psyche. The
Chinese are practical people and if they felt that the votes could go
either way, they would not take a chance and would choose stability over
change; but if they believed that they could change the Government and
win, then they did what you saw in GE13. But the Chinese normally bet on
a minority horse.
By analysing the results, we
can see the DAP won more seats this time and seats won by PKR and PAS
were also close to their numbers in 2008. Does it mean Malay votes were
still split? How about Indian votes?
Malay votes were split four
ways. UMNO, PAS, Keadilan and fence-sitters. Lucky for BN, this time
most went to UMNO. Less than 50% of Indian voters voted BN.
Why did the 1Malaysia plans, ETP, and transformation plans not work and cause BN a bigger loss?
I don't think people rejected
1Malaysia, ETP etc. The issues were not these. In all my earlier
interviews I listed the rakyat’s concerns. These were and still are: 1)
corruption, 2) good governance, 3) security, 4) education, 5) inflation,
6) urban poor, 7) young graduates. The government instead focused on
giving handouts. You give dinner once, people thank you. Give them five
times and they think you are trying to buy their votes.
Even though you have given
your warning, the so-called Chinese Tsunami was too big to be stopped.
But, is it fair to blame the Chinese for BN's not-so-good victory?
I have explained the Chinese
tsunami. Of course, Pakatan have to say it was not a Chinese tsunami,
otherwise they will be held responsible for this racial divide. Are they
denying the Chinese voted en block and Malay votes were split? No one
is blaming the Chinese, but this what it is. As I said they were misled
and they voted Pakatan but again it is their right to buy into that
argument and vote to kick the BN out.
How to change their minds?
Or should BN given up on the Chinese by promoting the Ketuanan Melayu
sprit to rely more on the support of Malays?
You can always try and you must
try to change their minds. You cannot give up on nearly 30% of your
fellow citizens. But you have to address issues as in my answer to
Ketuanan Melayu was when the
Malays fought against the Malayan Union. Ketuanan Melayu was in the
Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948. After 1957 and later in 1963,
there was a constitutional Malaysia. All races have accepted the
Constitution. It is a fine and well-balanced document. Sabah, Sarawak
and Singapore too accepted this document. The Constitution protects all
citizens. We are all Malaysians. As I said, I'm born a Malay, you are
born a Chinese. We don't choose to be Malay or Chinese, but you and I
choose to be Malaysians. That is our choice. If I don't like to be a
Malaysian, I can choose to be something else. So let us stay united and
work hard and sincerely and make sure the country continues to prosper
Najib has offered a
“reconciliation" plan. How serious is he? In addition, if this plan is
necessary, how should Najib deal with it?
I am glad he offered
reconciliation. He must be serious. You don't make statements you don't
mean. You are a leader. But I read Pakatan has rejected his overtures,
they talk about unity but do not practice it. Instead they offer preset
conditions. Are they sincere? As leaders, the country must come first.
How is this so-called
process of reconciliation ever going to take place when chauvinists and
radicals still there to give their provoking remarks?
We, the rakyat must reject the
chauvinists and the radicals. The government must take action against
them. The Rakyat must show support against these people. The country
must come first. Whatever you may think about the Malays, they have
shown that they reject extremists. They rejected Perkasa, Ibrahim Ali
and Zulkifly Nordin.
Some people say Najib is a
lame duck Prime Minister. He not only has to think of how to regain the
support of non-Malays but also has to guard against the wolves in his
party. Will he encounter any problems when the party elections take
place this year?
I have retired. I don't know
what the mood is in the party. He has to explain to party members what
went wrong. Is he going to be a lame duck PM? Cameron in the UK,
Gilliard in Australia, Mohan Singh in India so far are okay even though
in their cases they are ruling with razor-thin majorities.
UMNO has to remain united if it
wants to get the support of Malays. Strengthen your rural support and
the rest of the Malays will respect UMNO. If he explains to UMNO what
went wrong then I think UMNO will accept and offer their support. It
will take a bit of time with the Divisions and he has to make sure they
continue to support him and he has to tell UMNO members that only UMNO
is their saviour. I believe UMNO members will give him another chance.
Those who are disloyal, you must punish them. But prove it with
evidence. You have the Opposition to deal with, you don’t need 'enemies
in the blanket'. You don’t need over three million members if they did
not work or vote for you. It is better to have a smaller but committed
membership who love the party and want what is best for it. For far too
long, UMNO has had members who placed self-interest above the party.
Please analyse the result
for Selangor. Far from what we expected, BN lost more seats and more
popular votes this time despite thousands of good efforts.
Selangor was a disaster. When I
got feedback on the problems on the ground, I sent many messages to the
leadership. I spoke to Zain (Mohd Zain Mohamed, the BN Selangor Election
Director). He assured me of victory, totally ignoring the voices on the
ground. His own Ketua Pemuda stood against him and so many ketua
bahagians campaigned against him.
I think Zain was the wrong
choice. He was dropped from the Cabinet by Najib because obviously he
didn’t think much of his ability, and then you then appoint him as
Selangor UMNO Secretary. I don't understand Najib’s logic. When you all
asked me at the last interview, I said there were problems of wrong
candidates. Ketua Bahagians were not happy. Among UMNO (members)
sabotage was everywhere. I told Zain a list of state seats that were in
trouble. Zain said yes a bit of problem but BN would win. In all those
seats that were on my list, BN lost. With the wrong candidates, not
going to the ground, ignoring divisional chiefs, not visiting your
members and voters, and sabotage, you couldn't win.
When I was in Negeri Sembilan
campaigning on Friday night, I got a message that the Bukit Selambau
state seat under the Merbok Parlimentary seat was in trouble. I got
back to KL at 2am and a few hours later, early on Saturday morning, I
flew to Kedah. They were still quarrelling about the state candidate,
even when it was one day before polling. I told them they were crazy.
Just vote BN. I told them they had half a day left to campaign and go
together and campaign and be seen to be united. They lost by 500 votes
because they closed their pondok panas by 4pm, confident that they had
won. I SMSed you by noon that BN won Merbok but the Indians there had to
quarrel even at the last minute about candidates and we lost. We were
our own worst enemies.
As well as in Penang. Before
5 May, BN seemed to have some hope as the 1Malaysia welfare group had
organised many free dinners around Penang and free concerts. They tried
to attract the voters with money and presents. But, all efforts proved
These people are amateurs. They
are silly people. They think they are clever and throw money around.
Better give to charity. Why did BN allow stupid events like these?
People were insulted because they knew you thought they could be bought
with money, concerts and dinners. So they came to relax, have free
makan and be entertained. This is an election. It’s a serious matter.
Let Anwar be the entertainer.