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C H A P T E R T W E L V E The Judgment of the Electorate IT almost seemed an ordinary day: Saturday, May 10, 1969. The skies were clear; the weather was pleasant. Shops were open for business as usual. In kampongs and towns work was going on; the routines continued unbroken. Almost, but not quite an ordinary day. Indeed, it marked a milestone in Malay­ sian political processes, a regularly recurring test of the govern­ ment's commitment to democratic institutions and of its capacity to sustain them. Early morning election officials and party ob­ servers arrived and the polls were opened. Throughout the day voters lined up in small groups, presenting in unison as it were the rich mosaic of the country's population: men, women, Ma­ lays, Chinese, Indians, persons of all ages. Noticeably young people predominated. Many had stopped at the party-booths seeking instructions about election procedures or about their own selections. Their progress was occasionally interrupted by the arrival of a prominent personage complete with an entourage of journalists and photographers. The sensation passed and then the democratic process returned to its undramatic routine: long lines of people, one by one, casting secret ballots. All along, arrangements had proceeded to ascertain and to announce the judgment of the voters. At central locations halls were being prepared for the tabulation of ballots. On the padang in front of the Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur, work on a large, well-illuminated signboard was about completed. It was de­ signed to carry election results easily visible for the expected multitude. Radio and Television Malaysia were ready to stay on the air all night and to continue, if necessary, until a parlia­ mentary majority entitled to form a new national government did emerge. It almost seemed a calm and tranquil day. There were no demonstrations and practically no incidents.1 At the polling 1 In one of the few exceptions, three young men were ariested in Kepong and were charged with obstructing the presiding officer of the Sungei Buloh polling station. Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, May 13, 1969. 2Q0 A POLITICAL SYSTEM IN PERIL places friends greeted each other joyously. Some of the ladies giggled; the men chatted with careless gaiety. Almost, but not quite a tranquil day. The security forces were discretely de­ ployed, and the General Hospital in the capital had set up fifty beds—just in case of an emergency. Traffic in all towns was unusually light. Few were inclined to discuss politics or hazard prognostications. Indeed, beneath the fagade of calm—not very far beneath—there was a mood of rapidly rising apprehension. The communal tension and hostility recklessly exacerbated by the campaign was rushing toward a climax. The political leaders themselves, of course, were far from relaxed. Remarkably, practically all not only pretended to be, but actually were, optimistic. Dato Asri (PMIP) was quite con­ fident that any Alliance gains would fall short of those necessary to wrest control of Kelantan from the PMIP. Shrewdly, he sus­ pected some rather unpleasant surprises for the government party in the Malay majority states of Perlis, Kedah, and Trengganu . Across the peninsula Dr. Lim Chong Eu (Gerakan) at his campaign command post became convinced by mid-morning that his secret electoral "formula" was indeed a success. His party would certainly carry Penang; and with that he shifted his attention to the progress of his political allies in Perak and Selangor. Lim Kit Siang (DAP) continued his characteristically intense tempo in Malacca, but was already planning the DAP campaign for East Malaysia. His colleague, Goh Hock Guan, was no less sanguine. Most confident of all was the Alliance. On election day The Straits Times headline blazed: "It's io-to-i on another Alliance sweep."2 Meanwhile, a record number of voters were brought to the polls by the party's automobiles and buses. They visited the party's electioneering booths and re­ ceived political guidance (and in some cases incentives). If only they would cast Alliance ballots, the party indeed would win by a landslide. Tun Razak, having returned from a most vigorous effort in Kelantan, was inclined to think that the PMIP control of that state may well have been terminated. Possibly, just possibly, the Opposition might capture one state, but he was hard pressed to decide just which one. Certainly, not his home state of Pahang. Perlis or Kedah? Most unlikely. Penang? Well, not really. About 2Ibid., May 10, 1969...


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