I was amused when several people including some leaders in Pakatan had predicted a comfortable win for Zaid Ibrahim despite an apparent lost of steam in the coalition since 2008.
I was asked by several reporters on my prediction. They were surprised that I did not hesitate to give BN a slight advantage in the by-election.
Here are several lessons from the Hulu Selangor by-election:
1) Choice of candidate: Zaid is the right candidate for urban seats where there is a higher appreciation to his principled stand on several issues including judicial reform, abolishing ISA, good governance and others. It is okay for Zaid to be a little bit more remote and distance when dealing or interacting with urban voters who would have respected his space. In a semi-rural seat such as Hulu Selangor, a more effective message would be development, jobs and their livelihood.
In this case, Selangor MB Khalid could have done more to assure the voters of the state government's commitment and plan to develop the area and build new economic activities. Pakatan's ruled states remain quite hazy about their socio-economic plans apart from making several populist policies e.g. free water and free money to old folks etc.
2) Defections do hurt: Defections amongst PKR leaders and members do give a wrong perception about the party. Voters who voted for Barisan may not have a choice to vote for a party they deemed falling apart. Who wants to be put at the mercy of the ruling government? A large number of Hulu Selangor voters especially the Felda settlers are dependent on the federal government for aid and assistance. PKR needs to use this setback to look at their candidate selection process, recruitment and promotion process. Ex-leaders such as Zahrain, Salehudin, Zulklifi and others have an axe to grind with the party. These leaders are often unprincipled and self centric. They can flip-flop on their political stand if their personal demands are not met.
3) A lack of leadership for the Indian community: Hindraf started Makkal Sakthi with a bang but soon after the 2008 general election fame and power got better of their leaders. When the dust settles and real face exposed, this movement was nothing but a collection of self-interested and arrogant leaders. Factions within the movement started to break up and lost their direction. They should have used the opportunity and momentum to help alleviate the community into mainstream development. Indian community is seriously in need of real leadership and not self-centric and egoistic leaders who cannot speak the language of reason and hope. Both PKR and DAP Indian origin leaders had failed to provide a strong leadership to the Indian community and voters in Hulu Selangor.
Too much attacks and rhetoric on Najib and Barisan do have a saturation point. The point was reached at the last general election. Pakatan cannot continue to bank on the weaknesses of their opponent to win elections.
PR leaders must learn to walk their talk and not just mock others who did so but on the wrong path. At leaders they have tried walking.