Lifestyle Politics Translation

How was GE14 (9 MAY 2018) for reporters, MPs and political analysts? We asked them.

[Artikel ini asalnya ditulis oleh member-member kami kat SOSCILI. Kalau nak baca artikel ni dalam BM, klik sini!]

Without us realizing it, it has been roughly a year since the Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over the Malaysian government post-GE14. The 9th of May 2018 became a historic date, as it saw the fall of Barisan Nasional (BN, formerly known as Perikatan) after more than 60 years in power.

For some of us, we might remember the night of 9th May as the longest night for Malaysians, wrought with anxiety, excitement and wondering. We can say that many of us were either glued to our televisions, social media or the local mamaks to follow the vote counting.

In the uncertainty, we were shocked by the news that many cabinet ministers and BN main leaders lost their seats in the election. When the final results came out, we found out that Pakatan won a majority of Parliament seats and 8 states, which probably was a great blow to BN.

Click image to go to our feature on newspaper front pages, the morning after GE14.

Click image to see newspaper front pages, the morning after GE14.

But while we have been following the election’s development as ordinary citizens, a lot were going on behind the scenes for those involved with the election, either directly or indirectly. Our friends over at SOSCILI interviewed several of these people to know what they saw and experienced on that historic date, so here are some of their stories, translated to the best of our ability…

 

1. Reporters: The UMNO Building (PWTC) was eerily quiet, they couldn’t sleep that night

Nabihah Hamid, journalist for Malaysian Insight

On the day of voting, the atmosphere wasn’t as festive as GE13, and my heart at that time felt that it’s the same situation, BN will win, but not with a 2/3 majority. But as the night approaches, WhatsApp messages began circulating, telling people that PH had won.

Among the first to announce an early victory was Negeri Sembilan and Johor. We were super shocked at that time. How did Johor, a stronghold of BN, fell?

Khaled Nordin, ex Johor MB, holding a BN press conference on May 10th. Img from Utusan Online.

Khaled Nordin, ex Johor MB, holding a BN press conference on May 10th. Img from Utusan Online.

But the situation at the PWTC felt very mysterious. Those of us camping out there had approached numerous leaders who went in an out of the building, but not one of them left a comment. Some had very troubled looks on their faces.

“The Menara Dato Onn area looked gloomy, different from the festive cheer during the previous GE. This time, no big leaders showed up, and this continued to the late hours of the morning. It was a first.

The supporters who showed up started to disperse, wondering what happened. Mainstream reporters were mostly confused, pale and filled with questions. They could not believe that the PWTC, which had usually been lively, was so quiet.

Media practitioners gathering in front on the Menara Dato Onn. Img from the Malaysian Gazette.

Media practitioners gathering in front on the Menara Dato Onn. Img from the Malaysian Gazette.

That night, our feelings were mixed. As a practitioner of alternative media, we crave reforms and freedom of press. But at the same time we were scared, as we were worried of the economic stability and possible riots.

Some had feared the National Security Council Act (NSC) which some said will be used to keep the previous government in power. But that never happened.

 

Syalikha, reporter for Berita Harian (BH)

On the 9th of May, I was stationed at the Sungai Buloh Parliament, and it took a long time. I was on duty from 7 am, and it lasted until 3 am the following day. It can be said that this Parliament had been among the areas near Kuala Lumpur with the slowest results.

Maybe there had been a recount of the votes that the media didn’t know of. But the reason we know of is that there are some ballot boxes arrived late, so the results were late.

Waiting for the results so you can go home and shower be like... Gif from Tenor.

Waiting for the results so you can go home and shower be like… Gif from Tenor.

Our wait was finally over when the official results for Sungai Buloh was announced at 2 am! PKR’s candidate, R. Sivarasa, won.

“But at the same time, me and my colleagues were shocked to know the unofficial results: BN lost at the national level. So we expected a ‘game’ or a plan that will be launched by a certain party/politician for such a scenario.”

Tired out at Sungai Buloh, we returned to our office at 3 am. But it wasn’t over, as we still have to wait for orders and the official results to be announced. We finally went home at 5 am.

A TV presenter, GE14 night/morning. Img from hangat.com.

A TV presenter, GE14 night/morning. Img from hangat.com.

“Most of us couldn’t sleep due to the anticipation of the results and further instructions, and this lasted until 9-10 in the morning, when we finally heard that Tun Dr Mahathir will go to the palace to be sworn in as the 6th Prime Minister.”

 

2. Political analysts: It wasn’t what they expected, people started talking more freely afterwards

Dr Mazlan Ali, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) political analyst

Dr Mazlan Ali. Img from Berita Harian.

Dr Mazlan Ali. Img from Berita Harian.

In many of my statements before GE14, I always quote the term “Tsunami Mahathir” and the movement of 15% of Malay voters to Dr Mahathir will make PH win. But at the same time, BN’s strength cannot be underestimated, as the party with 61 years under its belt have the 3Ms (money, machinery and media).

After 5 in the afternoon of the 9th of May, I was at a government-owned radio studio to commentate on the results of GE14. As early as 7 in the evening, I can already feel that BN is losing due to many of the results not being in the party’s favor.

“Around 8 to 9 pm, my intuition said that it’s real: the government was changing hands. This notion was strengthened by the look of the EC’s (Election Commission) staff’s faces, the lifeless comments from the EC’s chairman and the lateness in announcing the full results… they all reaffirmed BN’s loss.”

At that night I felt a strangeness. Even though my colleague (Dr Nazli Aziz from UTM) and I were entertained by the antics of the DJs, we both did not neglect to check our social medias.

That face you make watching the live results. Img from KnowYourMeme.

That face you make watching the live results. Img from KnowYourMeme.

My phone had been ringing non-stop, and I was a bit shocked to see thousands of WhatsApp messages came in! Some were from the media, some from my friends and some from political leaders.

“Leaders from UMNO voiced their concern on the plight of the Malays, while leaders from the PH bloc talked about a new era and a better Malaysia.”

The DJs at that time were quite flabbergasted when the results showed up on the screen in droves. I can feel it – the DJ’s script that normally favored the government, it started to open up, and I as an analyst also started to talk in a more open and wide context.

I was thankful that no disturbance happened. It seemed that the police had played a successful role in controlling the public’s peace.

 

Prof Madya Dr Azmi Hassan, political analyst and geostrategist

Prof Madya Dr Azmi Hassan. Img from Berita Harian.

Prof Madya Dr Azmi Hassan. Img from Berita Harian.

On that night, I was performing an analysis at a local TV station. Around 9 pm, the results had been clearly leaning towards PH, and this situation made me, my analyst colleagues, and the show’s host to be a bit speechless as the results were not what we expected.

“Because the TV station was pro government (BN), what had been broadcasted for so long had to be changed in a real way, and there had been no doubt that we at the studio had went through a new political era and a drastic change in the political landscape.”

However, I saw that the security measures weren’t that tight, even though there were rumors of riots and such.

A dry run (practice) before GE14, in case that happened. Img from FMT.

A dry run (practice) before GE14, in case that happened. Img from FMT.

But what was interesting had to do with the media. See, the rakyat’s perception towards certain TV stations was that they supported a certain political party, so they assumed that the station’s staff were also like that. Especially the host of the talk show would also be inclined towards that party.

“But post GE14 had confirmed that the assumption was not correct as what was seen on TV did not necessarily show the inclinations of such individuals.”

 

3. Politicians: The EC started to warm up to PH candidates, BN candidates were advised to go home

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Setiawangsa’s Member of Parliament (PH)

Nik Nazmi. Img from Suara Perak.

Nik Nazmi. Img from Suara Perak.

On that night, it was pretty obvious that I will win in Setiawangsa. My parents and family members were there with me, as well as my friends, supporters and PKR and PH. It was very meaningful for my father and mother (each aged 88 and 78 years old) to live long enough to see such a change at that time.

Like the General Election in 2008, it took some time before the official results for Setiawangsa and the country as a whole to be verified. But I knew a change will happen. The previous UMNO MP, Ahmad Fauzi Zahari, who wasn’t a candidate this time, approached me and congratulated me personally.

“PAS’s candidate Ubaid Abd Akla were also there. After waiting for quite a while, the EC staff became more friendly and came to take a picture with me.

But all of us at that time were still busy handling messages and phone calls, using up our battery while waiting for PH and WARISAN to breach the magic number of 112 Parliamentary seats.”

I believe there were also worries. Many have asked: Will the current government (BN) hand over power peacefully? Will government institutions help the power shift? Will the society of various races stay calm during the process? Power shifts had happened at the state level, but never at the federal level.

It was a lot to unpack. Gif from Tenor.

It was a lot to unpack. Gif from Tenor.

Those who were older had witnessed the 13th May tragedy, and they must have been cautious even if they weren’t worried. The wait was finally over when I saw the Election Managing Officer put on his tie and jacket in preparation for the official announcement.

We walked up the stage with PAS’s candidate and I was officially announced as the winner. UMNO’s candidate was nowhere to be seen. Alhamdulillah, everything happened smoothly and so did the power transition.

 

Datuk Mohd Imran Tamrin, ADUN for Sungai Panjang (BN)

Datuk Imran is also a lawyer. Img from NST.

Datuk Imran is also a lawyer. Img from NST.

I honestly did not expect Barisan Nasional (BN) to lose during the last GE14. After 5 in the afternoon, we were convinced that several important BN figures will win, including my brother, Saudara Budiman Zohdi, at the Sungai Besar Parliament.

But panic started to set in starting around 6.30 pm, when the vote count at the voting central district (Pusat Daerah Mengundi) where BN usually won big showed that we lost. At that time, we were only hoping for a miracle.

It can be said that I spent the whole day at the war room (the room that showed voting results, live). Around 10.30 pm, the results for Sungai Besar’s Parliament and DUN were finally announced.

The war room looks kinda like this, if you're wondering. Img from Idealis Malaysia.

The war room looks kinda like this, if you’re wondering. Img from Idealis Malaysia.

When the results were announced, I was still in the war room. I found out there that I was the only one who won out of the other BN candidates. That meant that BN took a huge loss here! The police then also informed us that BN lost at the national level.

“Due to the unpredictability of the situation, the police informed us that they can escort us to the vote counting station. But because BN supporters had started to feel gloomy or angry and the PH side had been getting excited, we were advised to just go home for safety reasons.

My friends and I then just went home and prayed for everything to be fine. Alhamdulillah, everything stayed peaceful…”

 

So there you have it. 6 Malaysians involved with the last GE sharing their thoughts with us. With all being said and done…

 

Winning a historic election is only half the battle

Can they still win, four years from now? Img from The Borneo Post.

Can they still win, four years from now? Img from The Borneo Post.

It can’t be denied that 9th May had already been a historic date. But behind our excitement in waiting the for the GE14 results, we should remember that many had sacrificed their time and energy for that moment, like the reporters and broadcasters, as well as the police.

However, after almost a year in power, it would seem that voices of dissent among the rakyat can still be heard. According to a recent study by Merdeka Center, support for PH had gone down, if you were to compare it to the support from last year.

For Dr Mazlan Ali, PH now faces challenges in the form of inexperienced cabinet ministers and teamwork that is not quite there yet. So although it has been a year, PH can’t cozy down yet and have to work to find a solution for this.

“This downward trend needs to be addressed by the government as if it went uncorrected, it might cause the rakyat to reject PH in the coming GE15,” – Dr Mazlan Ali, to SOSCILI.

We actually analyzed the results of by-elections since GE14, and although there are other factors at play, the number of Pakatan voters have generally dropped since then.

The biggest drops were probably due to voters not showing up, but still... Img from Cilisos.

The biggest drops were probably due to voters not showing up, but still… Img from Cilisos.

We’re not saying that PH hadn’t done anything during the past year, and there have been plenty of reforms in multiple areas (regardless of whether they went through or not), and they did a pretty extensive effort cleaning up corruption, both past and in the future. But will these be enough reason for voters to stay? Who knows.

In 2018, the rakyat voted for a new government, but Harapan has its work cut it to ensure the rakyat don’t vote for a different government, 4 years later.

NAH, BACA:
Tell us what you overhear when you queue up to vote! #BeraturGE14

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