The tsunami that changed the country


It has already been more than 2 weeks since the 14 th General Elections. The seismic event which saw the Barisan Nasional lose control of the Federal legislature for the first time since Merdeka.

Most pundits predicted a narrow BN win, despite losing more seats than in 2013.

These analysts pointed to the re-delineation exercise and role of PAS as ‘spoiler’ as reasons for the BN’s eventual victory.

Only the most optimistic of Pakatan Harapan supporters, and Rafizi Ramli’s INVOKE outfit, predicted a change of government at the Federal level.

By 8pm on polling day, it was clear that something was happening. The early results from Sarawak saw BN trailing in several seats. By 9pm, unofficial results from places like Johor pointed to a spectacular coup by PH in the southernmost state, BN’s former stronghold.

One by one, the results poured in. BN heavyweights fell like tenpins all over the country in places where they were expected to win.

By 12am, it was clear that the BN had lost. The only question then, was by how much.

In the days and weeks that came, we had a new but old Prime Minister. We had new Cabinet members, who have started work. We found out the debt and liabilities of the country.

Now that the dust has settled, it would be useful to try to understand why the tsunami happened.

Firstly, the ‘Malay tsunami’, first mooted by DAP’s Liew Chin Tong had indeed occurred. It is probably more accurate to describe the Malay swing as a ‘wave’, but without the wave there would have been a Malaysian tsunami of this magnitude.

The wave meant that many seats previously held by BN switched to either PH or PAS. In this regard, most voters made a calculated move; they voted for the party that is most likely able to win against the BN. In the South and Central regions, that was PH, while along the East Coast it was PAS.

The anti-BN sentiment can clearly be seen if one studies the electoral map post GE14. It stretched from the Thai border to the Causeway, from the North South Expressway to the East Coast Expressway, from Peninsular Malaysia to Sarawak and Sabah, from the Straits of Malacca to the South China Sea.

There are likely to be several factors that caused this Malaysian tsunami. Cost of living and economic issues are crucial factors. Abolishment of the unpopular Goods and Services Tax became the rallying cry of the then opposition.

Major scandals such as 1MDB, Felda, MARA and others are also issues which swung voters. BN’s blind defence of the unpopular former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak as well as the fact that it has been in power for 6 decades, also ultimately cost the coalition the elections.

In Tun Mahathir Mohamad, voters had a familiar and trusted figure to ease any concerns they had about the so-called untested PH.

All these factors, and probably many more, combined to create the perfect storm which dislodged the BN from its seat of power.

Whatever happens from here on, the results of the 14th GE will mark the beginning of true democracy in Malaysia. It is empowering for the people, who now can truly believe that power is in their hands to determine the future of this nation.

May democracy continue to flourish in this fair nation.

Shahredzan Johan

Syahredzan Johan

Syahredzan Johan is a young lawyer and partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur.