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Pakatan's Nov 3 rally is 'tip of iceberg', say analysts

(Malaysian Digest) - The planned mass gathering to be staged by Pakatan Rakyat on Nov 3 in is just one of many public assemblies in store in the run up to the 13th General Election, analysts believe.
Pakatan on Wednesday announced that it will be holding the gathering to push for electoral reforms and are expecting a 500,000 turnout at Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu had told reporters that the government has yet to meet the eight core demands made by coalition for clean and fair elections Bersih, "especially on the need to clean up the electoral roll and media fairness".

Speaking to Malaysian Digest, political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan said such gatherings by political parties are expected as election nears.
"I think there’s a real purpose behind this (mass gathering) which is to rally Pakatan supporters in preparation for elections. Of course they need a reason to do it," said the chief executive of think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).

"I’m not surprised at the announcement. The first time I heard this was a few weeks ago from one of the Pakatan leaders and said they said there’s an event they are planning and at that stage they called it 'election convention'. That was the term used at the time," he added.

Political analyst James Chin from Monash University Malaysia also believes that Pakatan’s intention of holding the rally is to regroup and prepare its supporters for the impending polls.

However, he doubts that holding such a gathering at a stadium would make as much impact compared to doing it in the streets.

"This is a chance for Pakatan to rally their troops. They must think that the General Election (GE) is just around the corner," said Chin.

"However, I think that doing it in the stadium would have a lesser effect than having it in the streets, which is more 'exciting'. I think the government will ignore them. Nothing will change. The government will not bow down to demands in reforming the system because if they do that, they will lose. Any changes will only come after the GE," he said.

He also finds it hard to believe that Pakatan is holding a rally so soon, "but then again, maybe they want to show everyone that they are
capable of holding a peaceful rally."

Political scientist and activist Wong Chin Huat, meanwhile, staunchly supports the planned rally.

"I support the rally. It is apparent that the government will only respond when the rakyat takes action. Albeit, reluctantly, they will soon respond. Although the reform obtained is not as much as we wanted, previous Bersih rallies have proved that it can be prevent the situation from worsening," said Wong who is also Bersih 2.0 steering committee member.

"Imagine what will happen without the rallies, things would definitely be worse," he added.

Wong also said Barisan Nasional (BN) still has much to do to gain the rakyat’s confidence in the electoral system.

"I wish for the rally to be successful, however, I think that it is ironic that the call for electoral reforms should come from the opposition and that the ruling government is not joining it," he said.

"Malaysia is undergoing rapid development and transformation, the next ruling government needs high legitimacy to rule. If Barisan Nasional is confident of winning, they should also push for electoral reforms. It is in their best interest, after all," he added.

Analysts foresees more politically-motivated gatherings will be held in the next few months leading to the election which is yet to be called by the prime minister.

Earlier this week, more than 1,000 of Kelantan government supporters gathered outside the Federal Court in Putrajaya, as a leave application was being heard over the state’s demand for oil royalty payments. Meanwhile, Bersih had announced last month that it will be holding a concert on Oct 13 as a ‘reminder’ to the government on the former’s eight unfulfilled demands.

According to Wan Saiful, it is common for political parties to hype their supporters up before the election and expects similar gatherings by both sides of the political divide.

"As it comes closer to election both sides will be trying their best to bring supporters together and they will find the reason to do these rallies but the real motivation is just to bring the supporters together so that they would work harder in their campaigns. We can expect more of these sorts of gatherings.

"I think it’s necessary. All political parties around the world do it when it gets closer to the election date. They need to convey their messages to their supporters so that when people go down to campaign they can go to different places and spread the same message. It is more about galvanizing the parties’ supporters, not so much to garner votes.

"I’m very sure BN will be doing their stuff as well. The advantage for BN is they have the cloak of government activities so they can call it something like 'The Prime Minister Meets the Rakyat' or something like that."

However, Wan Saiful said although BN is expected to hold their own mass gatherings, which he believes will have a bigger turnout than Pakatan’s, these assemblies by the ruling party will not be held as a reaction its rival’s rallies.

"I think there will be more rallies like this organized by al parties, not necessarily to counter one another.

"In fact the biggest rally will be carried out by Umno at end of November when they will be holding their annual general meeting (AGM). Gerakan had theirs so we will definitely see more of these sort of gatherings."

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