He cannot understand why Malaysian Chinese voters continue to treat the Barisan Nasional with disdain. He cannot fathom why after tossing millions of ringgit to improve Chinese language schools, the BN lost by-elections in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau.
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister wonders whether the Chinese have begun to think of themselves as kingmakers in the new political landscape.
“They think they have the power to decide. It is not only the Chinese but the Indian community as well,’’ he told Mingguan Malaysia today.
Muhyiddin is not the only who cannot understand or chooses not to understand the psyche of Chinese.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says that Chinese voted for Pakatan Rakyat because they were swayed by efforts by the Opposition to frame the Perak constitutional crisis as an attempt by a Malay government to usurp power of a Chinese government.
Perhaps Muhyiddin, who was the by-election campaign director, and Dr Mahathir, who had little impact on the outcome despite making an appearance in Bukit Selambau and Bukit Gantang, are looking for scapegoats and excuses to hide their own deficiencies.
The Chinese are not so difficult to figure out. They like other Malaysians can smell hypocrisy and are loath to support those who have little respect for the view of the everyday man.
The defection of the three Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers and the Sultan of Perak’s decision to install BN as the new state government reeked of bad faith.
To compound matters, the brazen partiality of institutions only served to confirm in the minds of many Malaysians who were the good guys and who were the usurpers of power.
For many of the voters who supported Pakatan Rakyat in March 2008, the shenanigans surrounding the episode showed that the arrogance and boorishness of BN had not dimmed despite the wake-up call 12 months ago.
Then there were local issues to contend with in Perak and Kedah. Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek, MCA’s deputy president, notes that Chinese voters in Bukit Gantang were concentrated in Simpang and Kuala Sepetang.
In both areas, longstanding local issues were neglected by the Gerakan state assemblyman.
“Walking from house to house in Simpang and Kuala Sepetang, it became obvious that the Chinese voters are disillusioned with promises made by BN’s YBs, that remains unfulfilled,” he said, noting that many have been squatting on the land without proper land title.
“Portraying Nizar as pro-Chinese and also as alleged treason to Malay Sultan seems to have very little impact on Malay voters. However, it only serves to drive away the non-Malay voters. At the local level, Umno leaders are still playing the racial card while the more educated Malay voters feel that there are more self-serving leaders rather than for their race,” said Dr Chua.
This is not the first time he has conducted a post-mortem on BN after a by-election failure. After Permatang Pauh, he noted that the ruling coalition never presents a multiracial face to Malaysians.
Umno campaigns in Malay areas, MCA is assigned to win over Chinese households and MIC is asked to take care of the Indians.
This is in contrast to the multiracial show put up by Pakatan Rakyat. Following the defeat in Kuala Terengganu, he noted the folly of throwing goodies at voters in the hope of capturing their vote, pointing out that Chinese voters (for that matter any voter) expect their lawmakers to interact with them continuously and to champion issues important to the community.
These issues go beyond Chinese schools, the Chinese language and land titles. Younger and better-educated Chinese are concerned about human rights, a more level playing field in Malaysia and the New Economic Policy.
The business class believes that opportunities are drying up for them here.
If they are withholding their support for MCA and the BN, it is because their needs and concerns seem to be taken flippantly by the ruling coalition.
In contrast, the buffet of issues being championed by Pakatan Rakyat are those that are important to different segments of the community.
The Chinese have no interest in playing the role of kingmakers. Like other voters, they just want to be taken seriously.