– AND WHAT LESSONS BARISAN NASIONAL CAN LEARN FROM THE ELECTIONS IN SYRIA.
By Mansor Puteh
It was certainly a wonderful experience to be selected and invited to be the only Malaysian to be an international observer in the recently held presidential elections in Syria held on 3 June, and to be amongst the scores of others from twenty-five countries, excluding the scores of others comprising of parliamentarians from various countries in the region and elsewhere and the west.
I was fortunate to be put in a group of observers to visit some polling stations in the City of Homs that had seen destruction caused by the attacks by the rebels or insurgents who managed to control the city for a while, before they were forced to hand it back to the Syrian government.
A whole section of the city has buildings that are destroyed without them being able to be used for living.
And not only masjid were destroyed but also churches, as Homs has a large number of Syrians who are Christians.
One of the churches that had been destroyed was used as a polling station.
One cannot doubt the influence of incumbent President Bashar Al-Assad and his government on the majority of the people and voters, who came out in droves to lend their support for them.
Seventy percent of the voters turned in to vote, and they were able to cast their votes at any polling station in the country and not sent to any station to exercise their rights. He got close to ninety percent of the votes.
We were able to enter the polling stations to witness at close quarters the voting being conducted.
Street parties were also held near some of the stations and we also got to join in.
Unfortunately for me, I was often ‘mobbed’ by the crowds, who asked to pose for photos with them, so much so that our security guards had to push me along.
This happened not only in Syria but also in Iran where we stopped for a few days before heading on to Damascus and on the way back from there to return to Malaysia.
I was later surprised when I bumped into an Iranian friend of mine who had worked four years in Kuala Lumpur, and now back in Tehran who remarked how I would be very famous here.
And he went on to say that there is an actor from South Korea who had appeared in an Iranian feature film who he said looked like me.
Now I began to realize why there were some people in Syria and also in Tehran had stared at me before they gained the strength to quietly shoot photos of me from a distance, with some coming so close to ask to pose with them.
It is also unfortunate that the South Korean actors are known in Iran and Syria, where their television drama serials are shown on television dubbed in the local languages.
But there has not yet been any Melayu or Malaysian feature film or television drama serial that has been shown in these two countries.
There are many vehicles with South Korean and also Japanese models but so few Proton Wira and Gen.2 ones that I could see in the streets of Damascus and Tehran.
And what of the conduct of the people of Syria concerning their elections?
I found something interesting. One of which being the almost absence of banners, posters and photos of the candidates in the presidential elections – they are incumbent President Bashar Al-Assad, Maher Hajar and Hassan Alnoori whose photos are shown on the ballot boxes and below them are blank circles for the voters to tick which candidate they vote for.
The issues they delve or debate are mostly on national interests, harmony and security. They do not brook unnecessary speculation and dissent by promoting other perks, such as the need to prove employment, financial benefits and other issues which are discussed and contemplated on other platforms, by the winners, once they had been given the mandate.
Here Barisan Nasional can learn a thing or two from the Syrian experience if they are to give to the voters and also supporters what they need the most and not to encourage them to delve in petty issues that can also be used by the opposition to belittle them and to roll all over them, to benefit from the unnecessary confusion and promises that they can also offer and give should they be given the mandate.
Barisan Nasional’s greatest strength is in the longevity and a sense of permanence of its existence and the concept that its former leaders from the time of Perikatan or the Alliance coalition had introduced and created that had given them the true and undivided support form the voters and also people, who had gained a lot.
And earlier leaders of the three original parties, especially the Founding Father of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman can and must still be engaged to help gain the trust of the people of the country as his image and legacy are those that cannot be duplicated or ignored.
If he is ignored, the people especially the young generation will not have much cause to celebrate Barisan Nasional’s continued quest to promote the well-being of the people by developing the country, a quest it had managed to do all these years, but which did not seem to grasps by the younger generation who have not been told and told again the greatness and charity of Tunku who many remember by his royal title without anyone asking or saying, ‘Tunku…who?’
In Malaysia it seems there is just one ‘Tunku’ and he is Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj.
So for the next general elections it would be smart for Barisan Nasional to engage strategists who are familiar with such matters and issues and not use those that had failed the coalition miserably in the past three elections.
There are new methods for Barisan Nasional to campaign one of which is not to delve too much or at all on what the opposition does and wants to do; they only exist by being criticized and belittled, and the more they get those in the media, the more superior they become and are seen to be so.
Barisan Nasional exists as a group and not normally known by individuals, except for the few who are at the highest rung of the parties in the coalition.
So there is no need or point for their candidates to issue statements which can be manipulated or twisted.
They can become more regal by being aloof to any of those things, which may be useful in the election campaigns in Malaysia in the past.
And there is really no need to hang banners, posters or photos of the candidates, which can be confusing.
Barisan Nasional can gain much if in the next general elections none of this paraphernalia is used so that the opposition will have a field day defacing the sights all over the country with their own, for everybody to see with many of them being torn and defaced by nature and other unnatural elements.
The Syrian election commission officers also do not hog the media traffic, because they can add to the unnecessary controversies and scandals that can be created and reintroduced now and again.
And in this regard it will be good or better if their counterpart in Malaysia to do the same, as they can be seen to interfere in the election process. Announcements can be made by official spokesmen and not the senior officers concerned, who should remain present but not in their physical forms.