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Making sense of crossovers, Part 4: Strategies to encourage and prevent

The Opposition wants MPs to cross over to their side, and BN wants to halt their efforts. Both sides will do everything possible to achieve their goals, and this article discusses some strategies.

The factoid approach

Factoid (noun) : A piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition.

– American Heritage Dictionary

The usage of factoids by the Opposition is quite obvious – not long after the March ’08 elections Anwar Ibrahim has repeatedly said that he has enough BN MPs willing to crossover. To date he has offered no evidence, but the constant repetition has caused many Opposition supporters to accept his statement as fact.

Due to the lack of evidence, supporters searched desperately for clues and signs that the crossovers were real. The tabling of a vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister by SAPP was seen as a silent support of the Opposition, possibly indicative of SAPP crossing over. The various ex-politicians from UMNO and Gerakan joining PKR in the past few months were also seen as a ‘crossover’ of sorts. But no actively serving MP in BN has come out in support of the Opposition.

The power of the factoid lies in how easy it is to repeat to others. Events that are imagined to be evidence are woven into the factoid, further enhancing its credibility. For how many months has the public been subjected to Anwar’s repeated claim that he has the numbers to take control of the government?

In the secret discussions held between the Opposition and the BN MPs, factoids play a role as well. An MP may be told that his compatriots have already ‘signed on’, thereby pressuring him to join the Opposition. In today’s age where phones are tapped, SMS’s traced and the threat of detention without trial looms, the MP may be fearful to confirm the truth about his compatriots. He may even go another route by telling other MPs that certain big names in BN were confirmed to be crossing over, according to ‘reliable sources’, but he himself was not. Whether he is aware of it or not, the MP would be doing the Opposition’s work for them, by spreading the factoid of the signed-on MPs.

Opponents of Anwar Ibrahim tried to use a factoid as well, as can be seen in the allegation by Saiful Bukhari that Anwar sodomised him. To date there has been no evidence that sexual assault of such nature occurred, yet charges were filed and Anwar was forced to undergo a medical examination.

Fans of the sodomy factoid hoped that it would cause Opposition supporters to lose faith in their leader, yet it backfired. Anwar is seen as being under attack once again, as he was previously accused of sodomy in 1998 and served a prison sentence before being acquitted. The factoid served to increase support for Anwar and reduce support for BN, as they are believed to be the masterminds behind the 1998 and 2008 sodomy charges.

The Permatang Pauh by-election spawned another factoid – that the nation completely supports Anwar Ibrahim as the next Prime Minister. As Opposition members put it, “How else does one explain that Anwar won despite BN throwing ‘everything it had’ at the election?”

This flawed argument ignores the fact that it was a safe seat, and that money in elections matters less than the message being spread. On the one hand you have the established leader of the DAP-PAS-PKR coalition promising lower petrol prices and a better economy for all races, and on the other hand you have a man whose campaign focused heavily on pushing their sodomy factoid. Even the most objective would have to say that Anwar’s message was stronger.

All these factoids have helped a great deal in boosting the image of Anwar Ibrahim and the Opposition as being in control of government already, if only the present government would let go. Voters may be influenced to pressure their MP to cross over, and MPs may feel they should so they are not left behind.

Increased funding and power to BN MPs

Sabah and Sarawak are two states that have been publicly targeted by the Opposition for their crossover operation. There is no reason to believe that MPs in other states are not being courted as well, but with the frequently publicised ‘secret meetings’ BN leaders would do well to court their own MPs as well. Increased funding to Sabah and Sarawak, and perhaps some more investment in improving their infrastructure and quality of life would do well to earn their loyalty.

The arrogant attitude shown by BN in the past does imply that they may ignore the Opposition’s claims altogether. By doing so they are missing out an opportunity to secure the loyalty of their MPs.

A public pledge of allegiance

This was attempted by BN in Sabah in August ’08, but was rejected as the Sabah MPs viewed it as insulting. Eventually it took place in early September, with more than 40 MPs from Sabah and Sarawak pledging their loyalty to BN.

It could be argued that such a pledge could easily be revoked by joining the Opposition and saying, ‘I was coerced into pledging’ – so why bother?

Sequestering BN MPs

An agricultural study trip to Taiwan was held in early September for 50 BN MPs. The duration of the trip conveniently put them out of the country on September 16th. The Opposition sent three PKR elected representatives to Taiwan as well, to maintain the ambiguity over the reasons for the trip.

Opposition supporters view this trip as an act of fear by BN, and an opportunity to have secret discussions.

Others saw this as a ploy by BN to see how far the Opposition was willing to go- apparently far enough to send two MPs and a State Exco member over there.

Resignations to the Dewan Rakyat can be submitted in writing. There was nothing stopping the MPs from changing their parties while overseas. However the Opposition had to maintain their factoid by sending people over there, so this action is forgivable.

Removing Anwar from politics

This can be said to be in-progress with the sodomy charges pending a trial. Without Anwar there would be no Pakatan Rakyat and PKR itself would not be as strong.

This is a nation where politicians have been murdered publicly in the past and the results of the investigations were either inconclusive or not publicised – swept under the carpet. Anwar has been a threat to BN since his release from prison, but the lack of harsh action against him indicates he has some form of protection. What that is we will never know.

Replacing the Prime Minister

The people’s faith in the Prime Minister is at an all time low. UMNO could just replace Abdullah Ahmad Badawi with someone else, such as Najib Razak or Muhyiddin Yasin. With a new Prime Minister in charge, perhaps announcing some grand changes such as a reform of the Civil Service or Election Commission, the Opposition would find it more difficult to increase support for their crossover plan.

A major incident

This can take the form of any event that would sway public opinion, and can be used by both sides.

A racial event (riot/hate speech/hate crime) involving Opposition members could cause voters to run back to BN ‘for protection’. BN has always capitalised on the racial divides in our country, and such an event could be engineered or instigated. The same event, if not handled correctly in the media, could benefit the Opposition instead if BN is seen as the cause of it.

Mass arrests could be seen as a clampdown on free speech in this country, and build up tremendous resentment towards the present government. In the present political climate where distrust of BN is high, there is no way for BN to put a positive spin on arrests of Opposition politicians – not without hard evidence.

Opposition supporters are fearful that either of these events would lead to the government declaring a State of Emergency. But they fail to realise that BN is not so foolish as to cripple our economy just to retain their ‘power’. A crippled economy and a drop in foreigners confidence in our government serves no one, not even the purportedly selfish BN politicians.

Back pedalling

The crossovers have a firm date of September 16th set for them. If it does not happen then the Opposition, specifically Anwar, will have to come up with a range of excuses. It could be fear due to a major incident. It could be due to evidence disproving his factoid.

Early on the Opposition stated that all the MPs would crossover at a specific time. If one MP crossed over and some punishment befell him, the others may be too scared. But the problem with the factoid approach is that on September 16th, all the MPs may be waiting to see who takes the first step before committing themselves. If nobody steps forward then we will see the Opposition engage in some face saving exercise. Only time will tell.

Making sense of crossovers

This series of articles tries to analyse the unending efforts of the Federal Opposition to take over the government by getting BN MPs to join them. Their goal is to get at least 31 BN MPs to change their allegiance on September 16th.

Part 1 looks at how PKR grew and the state it is in now, as they are the prime mover of the crossover ‘operation’.

Part 2 discusses the many justifications heard to support the crossovers.

Part 3 discusses the moral and democratic issues and suggested alternatives.

Part 4 describes ways to prevent and encourage crossovers.

Part 5 offers some parting thoughts and views on recent events

Written by ak57

September 24, 2008 at 6:56 am

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