There are 5 key lessons for the opposition derived from DAP’s shocking landslide victory in Sandakan, by a majority of 11,521 votes which is larger than the previous 10,098 vote majority in the 2018 general elections, even though the voter turnout dropped by 18% from 72% to 54%.
One, is that opposition MPs made a strategic error in opposing the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s bid in Parliament early this year, to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak back to its 1963 position, by amending Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution that had in 1976, downgraded Sabah and Sarawak to be on par with all 11 individual peninsular states. This was repeatedly stated by both Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal and DAP during the campaign, that opposition MPs led by UMNO and PAS had no right to talk about Sabah and Sarawak rights, if they refused to support the constitutional amendments to restore the 1963 position of Sabah and Sarawak as part of the 3 entities with Peninsular Malaysia that formed the Federation of Malaysia.
Two, is that the opposition parties’ propaganda, that they can win Federal power by playing up the divisive and destructive politics of outright racism and religious extremism, is doomed to failure without support from Sabah and Sarawak. Trying to pit Malays against non-Malays and Muslims against non-Muslims did not resonate in Sandakan but in fact repelled voters to turn to DAP, Warisan and PH. DAP won for the first time in all polling districts in Sandakan, including the BN strongholds of postal votes, Pulau Berhala and Kampung Sim Sim, which consist overwhelmingly of Muslim voters.
Three, telling lies through their control of some newspapers and social media can only work in the short term, but not in the long term. When sentiment and emotional passions have cooled, truth invariably prevails. As the saying goes, “You can bluff some of the people some of the time, you can bluff all the people some of the time, but you cannot bluff all the people all the time.” PH have 4 years to debunk and expose the lies and falsehoods of the opposition.
Four, a proven economic track record, an anti-corruption and clean government still matters. Trying to win voters when the opposition MPs campaigning are entangled with corruption, or when they have managed their own states so badly that their states coffers are bankrupt until they have to ask for the Federal government’s financial aid just to pay salaries of their government servants, does not inspire confidence.
Five leadership matters. Who is the opposition alternative to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal or Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad? Most of the opposition leaders are either discredited for non-performance or enmeshed in corruption scandals.
Voters want a clean government that can bring about development that is people-centric. There is no pride in voters telling their children that they voted for corrupt politicians. There is no pride in telling their children that they voted for racists and religious extremists. There is no pride in telling their children that they voted for incompetent politicians that make your state goes bankrupt. There is no pride in voting for a bleak future for your children whilst the few cronies enjoy a bright and wealthy future.
Hopefully the opposition does not learn the 5 key lessons so that they can remain in opposition in the next general elections.