On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

GE13: Caught up in the frenzy

Over the past two weeks, perfectly rational people appear to have lost their sense of logic and are unable to differentiate between rumours and the truth.

THE general election this time has been fiercely fought with both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat predicting victory.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said his coalition will retain power at the federal level, with Selangor and Kedah possibly returning to Barisan. Meanwhile, his opponent Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is already talking of declaring Monday a holiday after Pakatan’s victory.

Talk to Barisan leaders and the prediction is a victory of 130-138. The more ambitious ones say it could reach 140. But no one has dared to commit themselves to a two-thirds win of 148 seats. The simple majority is 112.

Barisan seems convinced that Sabah and Sarawak remain as “safe deposits” although it has conceded that the going is tough in a few Kadazan constituencies in Sabah’s urban areas.

Pakatan leaders, on the other hand, have also said Putrajaya will be theirs. They claim that Pakatan will govern in seven states, and that a few extra seats from Sabah and Sarawak will be enough to let them win narrowly at federal level.

Supporters of both sides have been psyched up to believe that victory is theirs. And that’s the danger. Expectations are so high that anything below what they believe is theirs would be met with tremendous disappointment.

The losers on either side will find the results unacceptable and unbelievable simply because their expectations have not been fulfilled.

Over the past two weeks, perfectly rational people, including my friends, appeared to have lost their sense of logic. Caught up in the emotional frenzy of the campaign, many could not differentiate between rumours and the truth.

No one has taken the trouble to verify any information, including obvious fictitious allegations, before they happily pass it on to their friends via their Facebook and other social media platforms. And, of course, they will embellish the stories with their own comments.

Many Malaysians who talk only to friends and relatives of their own race begin to believe that these views are an accurate repre­sentation of Malaysia.

The middle-class Chinese, of whom at least 80% are likely to vote Pakatan, in particular DAP, believe that Barisan will collapse. They are sure that they are the kingmakers in this election and all they want to do is to vote Barisan out of power, period.

Unfortunately, many of us do not see the bigger picture because we do not read the news, whether mainstream or alternative, in another language. In fact, many of us choose to read newspapers or online portals that suit our political sentiments and we expect them to resonate with the overall political sentiments of the nation.

It is ironic that while The Star has been accused of being pro-Barisan by DAP, there is a pro-Barisan blogger who has dedicated herself to bashing The Star on a daily basis as she counts the number of DAP news items and pictures that appear in this newspaper!

Then there is a news portal that is 100% slanted to the opposition but its contents are regarded as the Biblical truth, objective and fair.

In the rural heartland where the bulk of seats are located and where the winner will be decided, the warfare seems to be fought in a much quieter way. Without any mega ceramah to indicate the size of their support, their preferences will only be known tonight.

Will the Malay votes swing to Pakatan this time or will they remain faithful to Barisan and thus seal in another win for Barisan?

Non-Malay voters who want to see change need to follow closely the results in these 100-odd seats out of the 222 available.

There are at least 50 constituencies covering Felda schemes. The settlers are traditionally Barisan supporters but will their children, many of whom are coming home to vote, be as well?

Talk about electoral fraud. There have been reports that foreigners are coming in from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan by the planeloads to vote here. According to these reports, some 4,500 Bangladeshis and Indonesians, as well as some China dolls, landed at KLIA on 16 flights in one day. That means 281 passengers per flight although a MAS Airbus can only take a maximum of 220 passengers.

Then there is this talk that 40,500 of the so-called foreigners have entered Malaysia in just seven days, which works out to 5,785 of them arriving per day. The figure must have included people coming in boats from Chittagong or trekking down from the Himalayas past the border, because the earlier figure was 4,500 via 16 flights.

To get 4,500, one needs 20 flights a day on an Airbus A320, and this also means KLIA and LCCT would resemble Dhaka as these groups of arrivals pass through. Even though it is mathematically mind-boggling, these reports may still whip up anger.

But emotions and anger have got the better of us, even at places of worship where these rumours and tall tales are being happily shared with the faithful.

The propaganda is convincing because an e-mail, purportedly leaked from AirAsia, telling of top officials being summoned to the Prime Minister’s Office is being reproduced on Facebook.

Yes, AirAsia is being implicated as well, besides MAS. So Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has to make sure none of his AA flights is delayed to enable these Bangladeshis to vote on time!

On Facebook, foreign workers dressed up in their uniforms have been labelled as voters while a few construction workers wearing Barisan T-shirts have also been similarly accused.

Someone has even posted a video of his Indonesian maid repeating that she “heard” her friends have been given identity cards to vote. There’s plenty of “heard’’ in the video but it has nonetheless been posted as yet another “evidence” of electoral fraud.

Malaysians on both sides must be vigilant but our foreign workers should not be unnecessarily manhandled today. Barisan believes it has enough Malay votes to retain Putrajaya and does not need foreigners.

Furthermore, a victory that involves cheating brings no honour. It is unacceptable and fair-minded Malaysians will not accept it.

When the last votes are counted tonight, we hope the winner is Malaysia. We may have grown more divided politically over the past few years but we are all growing up politically. The days when Malaysians have no political views are over.

In any growing-up process, there will be pains. Many of us are still on the rough edge, judging from the nasty and childish postings on Facebook, but we will get over that eventually.

We are now able to articulate our views. The next maturing process is to make sure we are able to look at things in a more rational, mature manner and to accept that everyone is entitled to his political choice.

That’s what democracy is about – making a choice. Democracy has many flaws and sometimes we end up making a wrong choice but it is still the best political system.

To be able to choose whether it’s the devil we know or the devil we don’t know is still the best way. We must learn to respect choices and to accept the decision of the majority of Malaysians tonight.

Godspeed and good luck, Malaysia!