“The FELDA Quarrel and its National Ramifications” by Khor Yu Leng

“The FELDA Quarrel and its National Ramifications” by Khor Yu Leng is out and downloadable at this link:

The ferocity of the public quarrel that broke out during Ramadhan at Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV, a public-listed group associated with the Federal Land Development Authority or FELDA) suggests that Prime Minister Najib Razak is not in full control of UMNO and will not call for early general elections.CEO Zakaria Arshad (a son of settlers and a FELDA insider) garnered support amid general calls to oust UMNO strongman Isa Samad as FGV’s non-executive Chairman. 

Social media exposés about dodgy corporate deals and illegitimate spending at FGV triggered an anti-corruption investigation.

FELDA’s Malay voters hold sway in almost a quarter of Malaysia’s parliamentary constituencies. Survey data show sliding support for UMNO-BN in a majority of these seats.

Chinks in the FELDA-FGV armour are keenly eyed by the wily ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed who opposes Najib and has been enjoying unprecedented access to FELDA areas.

Felda and Felda settler news: shipping farmers into city on Sept 16? Poll: Sept 16 rally finds little traction among Malays. FGV shares rise as much as 30% yesterday amidst Najib economic-share market stimulus plan. Malaysia Day tomorrow, with "red shirt" rally

16 September 2015: Shipping 20,000 farmers into city on Sept 16? Poll: Sept 16 rally finds little traction among Malays

What’s your motive for shipping farmers into city on Sept 16? NGO asks Felda Monday September 14, 201511:00 AM GMT+8; National Felda Settlers Children Association (ANAK) president, Mazlan Aliman said the farmers had received a letter dated Friday informing them Felda would be ferrying them into the national capital in Jalan Conlay for an event on September 16 to kick off at 11am called  “Himpunan Warga Felda Sempena Hari Malaysia”.... However, a sceptical Mazlan demanded Felda general manager Datuk Hanapi Suhada explain the purpose of holding an event in the city on the same day as a similarly-named rally called “Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu” organised by Malay martial arts group Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (Pesaka). “What does it mean ‘Assembly that represents the unity and togetherness of Felda settlers’ along with the attendance of organisations and non-governmental organisations?” Mazlan asked in his Facebook page yesterday. “Is it related to the ‘Red Shirts’ rally that will be held on the same day?” he questioned further, and demanded Felda also clarify if it was using the land authority’s public funds to bus in farmers for the event.... Mazlan said that if the event was related to the rally, it should be cancelled immediately as Felda needed to focus on handling the settlers’ well-being and not drag them to an event that will be harmful to them.... Felda will be sending about 20,000 settlers from various states in 500 buses to Kuala Lumpur on September 16 for their event.... http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/whats-your-motive-for-shipping-farmers-into-city-on-sept-16-ngo-asks-felda#sthash.vnd3RZcK.dpuf

Poll: Sept 16 rally finds little traction among Malays Published Today 3:38 pm     Updated Today 4:58 pm; The ‘Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu’ rally has found little traction among Malay voters, according to independent pollster Merdeka Centre. This is despite the rally being touted as a gathering to uphold Malay dignity and to counter the predominantly Chinese Bersih 4, which saw participants stomping on images of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. A telephone survey by Merdeka Centre showed that only 24 percent of respondents supported the rally. Of these, eight percent expressed strong support, while 16 percent of respondents expressed some support. https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/312403

15 September 2015: FGV shares rise as much as 30% yesterday amidst Najib economic-share market stimulus plan. Malaysia Day tomorrow, with "red shirt" rally

Najib’s economic stimulus lifts stocks   By Esther Lee / digitaledge Daily   | September 15, 2015 : 9:14 AM MYT; The promise of a RM20 billion injection into ValueCap Sdn Bhd was a positive for investors, which will then be used to invest in undervalued Malaysian companies. To give some context, RM20 billion represents about 2% of the KLCI’s market capitalisation of RM944.21 billion as at yesterday’s close. Established in 2002, ValueCap is an equity investment firm that is owned by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan) and Permodalan Nasional Bhd.... http://www.theedgemarkets.com/my/article/najib%E2%80%99s-economic-stimulus-lifts-stocks

Felda gets UMA query on share price surge Published: 14 September 2015 9:01 PM Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) has been issued an unusual market activity (UMA) query by Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd, after the sudden sharp rise in its share price today. FGV's counter rose as high as 30% to trade at RM1.65 today. The stock has been on a slide since early this year, plunging to its historical low of RM1.19 on August 26. - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/business/article/felda-gets-uma-query-on-share-price-surge#sthash.GlpVzP9B.dpuf

No marching allowed for ‘red shirt’ rally at 3 spots, says Zahid BY RAM ANAND Published: 15 September 2015 12:16 AM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/no-marching-allowed-for-red-shirt-rally-at-3-spots-says-zahid#sthash.iGJ48Hn2.dpuf
BN parties agree to disagree on ‘red shirt’ rally, says Najib BY RAM ANAND Published: 15 September 2015 12:01 AM | Updated: 15 September 2015 7:08 AM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/bn-parties-agree-to-disagree-on-red-shirt-rally-says-najib#sthash.Pa84T87M.dpuf

7 September 2015: Felda stronghold helps Najib's grip on power, What’s 20,000? Felda settlers alone can top Bersih 4 turnout - Najib says

Felda stronghold maintain Najib’s grip on power BY RAM ANAND Published: 6 September 2015 8:55 AM....  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's claim that he could easily muster thousands of settlers under a rural plantation scheme to rival the crowds at the Bersih 4 rally could well be true when it comes to Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlers in his own constituency of Pekan, in Pahang. Pekan's eight Felda settlements are home to some 16,000 registered voters. At one visited by The Malaysian Insider recently, Felda Chini, the prevailing sentiment is one of gratitude to Najib's father, second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who set up the scheme which gave thousands impoverished rural folk land, homes and a second chance at life..... Pekan Umno division committee member, Abdul Rahim Yahya, is one such person. "We grew up knowing only hardship. Then we came here, and we had land to work on, we became settlers, we could live a decent life," Rahim, a Felda settler, told The Malaysian Insider on a recent visit there. Similarly, Chini assemblyman Datuk Abu Bakar Harun, who is close to Najib, is also a second generation Felda settler. "There is consistent aid given out to us. We get BR1M, we get allowances at the start of school every year for the children," Abu Bakar said. In Felda settlements, Rahim said, people are happy as their needs are provided for. Sentiments against Najib and calls for his resignation over controversies surrounding 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion in his personal accounts are but distant echoes to them.....Najib almost lost Pekan in the 1999 general elections, winning by merely 200 votes, but that is something that will not happena again, Rahim said. "That time, he was not mesra (friendly). Now, he is. He doesn't come here too often but when he does, the reception is fantastic. The people turn up for him," he said. "Even his wife (Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor) is friendly now. She sits down with the people and talks to them. So, we are thankful for all of this," he said.... In Johor, a staunchly BN state, for example, 86% of Felda voters chose the BN. These figures were reported in a research paper by Khor Yu Leng that was published by Universiti Sains Malaysia after the last general election in 2013. It was estimated that Felda settlements nationwide represented a vote bank of about 1.2 million voters, or almost 9% of the total voting populace. As such, they are important strongholds for BN and its lead Malay party, Umno, of which Najib is president..... http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/felda-strongholds-hold-the-fort-for-najib#sthash.3TW5oTrS.FqJupYc1.dpuf

Not easy to unseat Najib, his GE13 challenger tells Dr Mahathir BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR Published: 30 August 2015 12:01 PM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/not-easy-to-unseat-najib-his-ge13-challenger-tells-dr-mahathir#sthash.EY7YT8vY.dpuf

What’s 20,000? Felda settlers alone can top Bersih 4 turnout, Najib says... Sunday August 30, 2015 - There might have been 20,000 people at the rally, as reported by some media, but I am sure only 20,000 are a little dissatisfied. The rest of the Malaysian population are with the government,” he was quoted as saying at the national-level Felda Settlers Day celebration in the Gong Badak indoor stadium in Kuala Terengganu on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. The prime minister dismissed the number as insignificant, saying those supporting his Barisan Nasional (BN) government numbered in the hundreds of thousands as opposed to the tens of thousands that were reported to have hit the national capital last night..... “What is 20,000, we can gather hundreds of thousands. Felda settlers alone could make the numbers,” he was quoted saying further.... http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/whats-20000-felda-settlers-alone-can-top-bersih-4-turnout-najib-say#sthash.6abP0sbE.dpuf
(editor's note: other reports on the Bersih rally in KL point to 300,000 on its second day)

More homes to be built for Felda settlers  by sharanpal singh randhawa Updated: Monday August 31, 2015 MYT 11:35:32 AM  http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2015/08/31/More-homes-to-be-built-for-Felda-settlers/

Najib announces RM88.8 million for Felda settlers, payment starts next week Published: 7 July 2015 8:39 PM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-announces-rm88.8-million-for-felda-settlers-payment-starts-next-week#sthash.XnILZejI.dpuf

Shareholders get assurance of continuous dividend payments  5 September 2015 @ 11:00 AM; FELDA Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV), the world’s largest crude palm oil (CPO) producer, has given an assurance that it will continue to pay dividends to shareholders even during this challenging economic conditions. Its president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah said FGV is operating more efficiently. Its operating expenses and cost of production have also improved. “I want to tell my major shareholders, including the 112,635 settlers nationwide, that FGV will continue to provide dividends even during difficult times. The company is making money, not losing money.”... http://www.nst.com.my/news/2015/09/shareholders-get-assurance-continuous-dividend-payments

54 Gabonese settlers undergoing training at Felda schemes   6 September 2015 @ 10:28 AM   KUALA LUMPUR: Gabon-based OLAM Palm Gabon SA has sent 54 Gabonese settlers to undergo a four-month training at Felda land schemes in Trolak, Perak and Tekam, Pahang.  The training, which entails a one-month stint on farm management and another three months on oil palm cultivation, is being conducted by Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s (FGV), FGV Organisational Learning and Development Manager Saiful Nizam Yahaya said..... http://www.nst.com.my/news/2015/09/54-gabonese-settlers-undergoing-training-felda-schemes

23 August 2015: PM Najib urges FGV shareholders and Felda settlers to accept Eagle High deal, due diligence due end August, FGV to investigate migrant worker abuse claim, call for bauxite licences at Felda Bukit Goh

Felda shareholders told to back plantation buy By Zulaikha Zulkifli; Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today urged the shareholders of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) not to be swayed by those instigating them to oppose the proposal to purchase PT Eagle High Plantation. According to Najib, FGV shareholders should be rational in making the decision, and that they should not miss out on the golden opportunity to purchase PT Eagle shares. https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/307591

PM coaxes Felda settlers into okaying EHP purchase FMT Reporters | August 6, 2015; Najib Razak says it is a good investment marred by certain parties who are trying to influence them into rejecting it... http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2015/08/06/pm-coaxes-felda-settlers-into-okaying-ehp-purchase/
Felda Global stake buy on track, no fallout in Eagle High deal Wednesday, 5 August 2015 By: HANIM ADNAN; http://www.thestar.com.my/Business/Business-News/2015/08/05/FGV-stake-buy-on-track/?style=biz
FGV to end due diligence exercise on PT Eagle acquisition by end of month Tuesday August 4, 201503:12 PM GMT+8 - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/fgv-to-end-due-diligence-exercise-on-pt-eagle-acquisition-by-end-of-month#sthash.Gr1q5pbp.dpuf

FGV shortlists five bidders for Canada's asset Posted on 11 August 2015 - 03:07pm  Lee Weng Khuen; KUALA LUMPUR: Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd has shortlisted five bidders for the disposal of its non-profitable canola and soybean crushing and refinery business in Canada.
CEO Datuk Mohd Emir Mavani Abdullah said the company is in final talks with five international firms.

Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations - Global palm-oil industry contributes to human trafficking, rights advocates say By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood   July 26, 2015 1:55 p.m. ET JEMPOL, Malaysia—On a sun-scorched hillside, bulldozers clear land to plant more of the trees that yield palm oil, which is used in everything from Oreos to Pop-Tarts to Old Spice deodorant. Demand for palm oil has surged in recent years, making it the most-consumed vegetable oil in the world.  Nearby, an army of migrant workers toils in the heat, using long poles with attached sickles to saw off fruit bunches high in the trees, then... http://www.wsj.com/articles/palm-oil-migrant-workers-tell-of-abuses-on-malaysian-plantations-1437933321
Felda to investigate claims of worker abuse Published: 27 July 2015 7:59 PM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/felda-to-investigate-claims-of-worker-abuse#sthash.zpIxRPds.dpuf
Call for bauxite licences in Felda scheme July 26, 2015  After settlers run into problems clearing land, committee urges state to help; KUANTAN: The Pahang government has been urged to issue bauxite mining licences to 32 contractors who have made deals with settlers of Felda Bukit Goh to carry out mining on their land. Bukit Goh Bauxite Coordinating Committee chairman Abd Wahid Abd Manaf said problems would arise for settlers who had signed agreements with contractors to mine bauxite on their plantations.... http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2015/07/26/call-for-bauxite-licences-in-felda-scheme/

Despite dropping share prices, Najib says FGV still has prospects BY RAM ANAND Published: 12 July 2015 7:48 PM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/despite-dropping-share-prices-najib-tells-settlers-theres-still-prospect-in#sthash.ZO1BzM4c.dpuf

The evolution of Felda Published: 18 July 2015 9:42 AM - See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/the-evolution-of-felda#sthash.VSkypYAN.dpuf

Cow thieves beaten by Felda settlers, force-fed cow dung & their car SET ON FIRE Friday, 24 July 2015 16:32    http://www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=559572:cow-thieves-beaten-by-felda-settlers-force-fed-cow-dung--their-car-set-on-fire&Itemid=4#ixzz3jdx00Xna

Palm oil / commodity production and Malaysia electoral politics - WSJ feature on Genting donations to YR1M, Bersih asks for EC investigation

There are various connections for smallholder agribusiness (large economic sectors) with Malaysia electoral politics - notably Felda rural politics, and also Felcra and Risda:

Recently the WSJ features the linkage of donations by a large public-listed plantation group to 1MDB linked charity with funds allegedly flowing to boost Prime Minister Najib's electoral efforts in GE2013

WSJ: Fund Controversy Threatens Malaysia’s Leader - debts run up by state development fund 1MDB have roiled Malaysia’s markets and led to calls for its leader to step aside; By Tom Wright June 18, 2015 10:34 p.m. ET; KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A state investment fund is at the center of a burgeoning political and financial controversy that is roiling markets and leading to calls for the ouster of Malaysia’s prime minister....

Nazri legitimises the act of a robber, says Pua by malaysiakini, Senior minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz's statement on the use of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fund to bankroll 13th general election has left the nation in disbelief, for he merely legitimised the act of a robber, an opposition MP says.  Nazri has legitimised the act of “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, DAP Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said in a statement today.  The tourism and culture minister even thanked the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which reported the use of the 1MDB fund for the general election of 2013, for setting the record straight. "If the report carried by WSJ is proven true, then it is good, as it shows the money was not lost. Then why do you (critics) say the money is lost?  What's wrong with (Finance Ministry wholly-owned 1MDB's) money being spent on the people?" Nazri (photo) told Malaysiakini yesterday.  But what was exposed by WSJ also showed that the companies that benefited from 1MDB's generous acquisition offers have separately contributed to a “charity” controlled by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, said Pua, who is also DAP national publicity secretary.  The leading international financial paper further claimed that some of these donations were then channelled to activities related to the Barisan Nasional’s election campaigns.  Worse, there is nothing in the Companies Commission (SSM) documents pertaining to YR1M, a company limited by guarantee, that it is in anyway related to the government, he said.   "Instead, YR1M looks like a private vehicle controlled entirely by the prime minister.  "Why should these allegedly ‘charitable’ deeds be handed out by this private vehicle, and not directly and transparently by the government?" he asked......"Indeed, based on the above, the prime minister, Genting Bhd, 1MDB and YR1M must not only be investigated by the Election Commission for committing electoral fraud as demanded by electoral reform group Bersih. "They must also be investigated by both the police and the Malaysian ti-Corruption Commission for possible embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and corrupt practices," Pua added.

‘Haram’ money used by Umno to win GE13? By Yoursay; WSJ: Najib used 1MDB's funds for GE13; YOURSAY ‘WSJ is merely stating what Malaysians have already known.'  Abu Iman: If that is the case, Umno used 'haram' money to win GE13.... Swipenter: One would have thought that Umno would have huge piles of slush funds stashed away for use in elections. ... https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/302542

EC tells Bersih to lodge report if 1MDB backed Najib’s GE13 campaign BY MOHD FARHAN DARWIS Published: 21 June 2015 4:55 PM; The Election Commission (EC) today questioned the actions of election watchdog Bersih 2.0 which had accused it of failing to introduce necessary reforms to rein in unfettered electoral abuse and corruption, following a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report that 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had indirectly bankrolled the prime minister's 2013 election campaign. EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said Bersih 2.0 should collate evidence and lodge reports with the relevant authorities if it felt the WSJ report had merit. http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/ec-tells-bersih-2.0-to-lodge-report-if-1mdb-backed-najibs-ge13-campaign#sthash.hVT7Sxbr.dpbs

Bersih: Did 1MDB funds help BN steal GE13? Updated Jun 20, 2015 10:17pm; Electoral reform group Bersih today expressed shock over a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report claiming that 1MDB's funds was used for election campaigning through intermediaries. "The WSJ report comes as a revolting truth of how the 13th general election was stolen from the people of Malaysia," its steering committee said in a statement today.  Bersih said the WSJ report implied that 1MDB may have been used as a government-controlled election slush fund for Umno.  "This is totally outrageous and an abuse of power because brazen dirty tactics have been used to manipulate voters’ trust.  "It also raised the issue of whether this is just the tip of the iceberg. Are there any other government-controlled money used in similar manner?" it said.... http://m.malaysiakini.com/news/302515


Rompin by-election spotlights Felda swing - review of Malaysiakini news and other media

A very useful micro analysis of the Rompin by-election by Malaysiakini on the Felda swing against UMNO-BN and a possible Chinese voter swing back on hudud (newslinks below). Malaysian Insider offers a more macro perspective viewpoint, with some focus on Najib's leadership issues* and some introspection by UMNO-BN leaders on "lessons" from Rompin.
*"PM's approval rating slips to 44%" here http://merdeka.org/v4/index.php/downloads/category/2-researches?download=153:january-2015-national-poll-approval-rating-top-issues and perhaps fortunately a lack of traction of 1MDB crisis outside of various urban circles; "Majority of voters lack awareness and comprehension of 1MDB controversy" http://www.merdeka.org/v4/index.php/downloads/category/2-researches?download=156:national-poll-march-2015-1mdb-final

Malaysiakini seems to have the most useful coverage (please do click on the links go to their website to read in full). I'll add more from other sources soon. But clearly, the focus is immediately on Permatang Pauh by-election (today, 7 May 2015) to see if the trends in Rompin carry over there too. Blog link: PR opposition coalition (update 18): All eyes on Permatang Pauh by-election today; a pro-ulama hudud scuffle; /khoryuleng/2015/01/malay-unity-and-pakatan-rakyan.html
Malaysia rural and semi-urban votes are important to keep an eye on after the 2013 general election decisive urban swing against the UMNO-Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.
Teaser on new Felda settler socio-economic study I'm involved with here (due for release in a few months): http://khorreports-palmoil.blogspot.com/2015/04/felda-settlers-study-sneak-peak.html
Two political-economy pieces on Felda and electoral politics are just out.
The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes – UMNO Strengthens Its Malay Rural Fortress in 13th General Election by Khor Yu Leng. My article has just been published in Kajian Malaysia. Download via this link: /khoryuleng/2014/11/the-political-tussle-over-felda-land.html
Also, it is carried in a chapter in ISEAS book just published (picture left). Coalitions in Collision: Malaysia's 13th General Elections by Johan Saravanamuttu, Lee Hock Guan, Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, editors. Date of publication: 2015 Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies / Strategic Information and Research Development Centre No. of pages: 309
Chapters on rural politics and Felda are....
5. The Political Economy of FELDA Seats: UMNO's Malay Rural Fortress in GE13, by Khor Yu Leng, author
6. Fragmented but Captured: Malay Voters and the FELDA Factor in GE13, by Maznah Mohamad, author

Perkasa chief (often associated with Mahathir) also in attack mode

Rompin, Permatang Pauh show Umno near its end, Perkasa claims BY SYED JAYMAL ZAHIID Friday May 8, 201506:01 PM GMT+8; KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — The drastic drop in Umno’s votes during the Rompin and Permatang Pauh by-elections signal that the Malay community is starting to reject the party seen to represent only the rich, Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali said today. The former Umno leader said Perkasa’s observations in the two by-elections found that discontent towards the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was the main reason behind Umno’s decline in support, adding that it also found the party’s machinery to be weak and powerless when dealing with the issue. “In Rompin the main issue was GST and the [Felda Global Venture] scandal. In Permatang Pauh it was also GST and other issues like 1MDB, the money spent on the jet and the prime minister’s wife. “What was the gist of Umno’s campaign? They played on the division of the opposition, an issue that is ineffective because why? Because people are more concerned about the cost of living... people are squeezed economically,” Ibrahim told a press conference at Perkasa’s main office here. The former Pasir Mas federal lawmaker said to this was exacerbated by lack of capable speakers and activists among Umno’s election machinery who could connect with the voters. Ibrahim alleged the problem was symptomatic of Umno’s condition now, a party bereft of capable and hardworking leaders and headed by a pampered lot only comfortable working in air-conditioned rooms rather than going down to the ground. ... http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/rompin-permatang-pauh-show-umno-near-its-end-perkasa-claims#sthash.Tl2YGnZf.dpuf

Sin Chew - news links

Messages behind the Rompin results   2015-05-07 14:51  By LIM MUN FAH  Translated by DOMINIC LOH  Sin Chew Daily; If the by-elections in Rompin and Permatang Pauh are, like analysts say, a kind of referendum for Najib, then the results for Rompin by-election should come as more of a concern than reassurance. Rompin is a fight that is not going to deliver much surprise. Indeed, the BN candidate won as many had anticipated. The question lies with the percentage of votes won and how the Malay and Chinese voters had voted, and which between GST and hudud had bigger impact on the final outcome Umno's Hasan Arifin won with a slashed majority of 8,895 votes, sharply down by 6,219 votes compared to the impressive majority of 15,114 votes during GE13......
Compared to May 2013, the percentage of votes won by the BN candidate this time has slid from 66.8% to 61.5%. On the contrary, PAS' percentage went up by a remarkable 5.3%, from 33.2% to 38.5%. This is what caused the dramatic drop of BN's votes by 6,219 votes while PAS' votes only fell marginally by 25 votes.......There are three things that we need to mention here. Firstly, of all the 38 polling stations, PAS won in five, against one only in GE13, which is a major improvement. Secondly, the votes garnered by PAS candidate at channels 3 and 4, mostly from younger voters, increased noticeably. Thirdly, the hudud law issue did not seem to affect the party's support rate among Malay voters. In its stead, Umno seemed to have paid a bigger price from the GST impact.
As we all know, rural areas and Felda settlements are traditionally Umno's stronghold. Although Umno has managed to retain this traditional stronghold, the significantly reduced majority and percentage of votes are not a good sign for the party. Could this be the start of Umno and BN losing their rural constituency advantage? Could Mahathir's verbal attacks on PM Najib be another factor that eroded BN's advantage in Rompin in addition to the GST issue? And will Mahathir bank on this situation to further exert pressure on the PM, thus deepening the crisis of existing Umno leadership?...... Of course, BN has also made some gains in the form of returning Chinese votes, showing that Chinese Malaysians are indeed resistant to PAS and its hudud advocacy. This nevertheless should not be a cause for relief for both MCA and Gerakan, for in polling stations with about 15% of Chinese voters, BN still performed badly at channels 3 and 4 made up mainly of younger and middle-age voters....... In short, the Rompin results do not give the PM much credit but will sink him to deeper dilemma. The results of the upcoming Permatang Pauh by-election is yet another major test awaiting him. Even if BN is not able to wrest the seat from PKR, at least it must trim some of its majority votes. This is the least that could be required of the PM, and should serve as an important basis for him to cling on to power.......http://www.mysinchew.com/node/108672?tid=12

Malaysian Insider - news links

Najib factor not cause of lower Rompin majority, says BN BY EILEEN NG Published: 7 May 2015 9:00 AM; Leaders from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition have disputed views that a reduced majority at the recent Rompin by-election was a sign of voters' cooling response towards Datuk Seri Najib Razak's leadership. Instead, issues like the goods and services tax (GST), a complacent election machinery and gloomy sentiments over falling palm oil prices could have contributed to its diminished performance, said BN leaders from both Malay ruling party Umno and senior Chinese partner MCA who played down the Najib factor. The most important thing, they said, was that BN retained the federal seat despite efforts by the opposition..... Umno's Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the party's machinery in Rompin and voter apathy were contributing factors to the lower majority. "The PAS candidate managed to get almost the same votes as compared with the last GE. So their support is still strong. "But Rompin Umno machinery's commitment is questionable because they did not manage to increase the level of turnout and votes despite it being a by-election and the huge resources spent. "The slimmer majority could be narrowed further in the next GE if Rompin Umno remains complacent in a 85% Malay majority seat," Nur Jazlan said in a WhatsApp message to The Malaysian Insider. Kuantan MCA division chief Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker also dismissed the Najib factor, or lack of it, since the BN's campaign did not feature posters of the prime minister nor his presence much, despite Pahang being his own state. Najib's Pekan constituency is in Pahang. "Najib's presence was never in Rompin all along, it was more associated with JJ," he said in referring to the late Rompin MP Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis's moniker. He attributed the lower turnout to a "silent protest" against the GST and the slump in palm oil prices, as many of electorate in the rural constituency were Felda settlers, a scheme to help the poor plant cash crops like oil palm. He said this proved that people are becoming more issue-centric and playing up racial and religious sentiments did not drive the electorate to vote for either BN or Umno. "Of late, we can see political posturing where Umno and PAS are trying to outdo each other but it is not winning them any votes. "It is time for BN to take stock of this signal. There are issues that need to be resolved and resorting to racial and religious political antics does not work any more," Ti said....
.....But analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan said that while the GST and financial scandals involving state investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) were some of the factors at play, he felt that Najib's lacklustre leadership was a reason for BN winning only 61% of total votes cast. In contrast, in the 13th general election two years ago, BN won 30,040 out of a total of 45,849 votes or 66% of the total votes. Rompin was a typical BN stronghold of mostly rural voters. "The slashing of the majority at this scale indicates there are more than local issues involved here. It boiled down to issues surrounding Najib's leadership. "The way I see it, voters are reacting to how they see Najib – incapable of moving the country forward – and they are translating this by not turning up to vote," Wan Saiful told The Malaysian Insider, adding that voting on a weekday could have affected turnout as well....But former Wanita Umno chief Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said there was no point in pointing fingers as at the end of the day, what was important was that BN won at a still comfortable majority.
The former international trade and industry minister said BN could be returned stronger if Putrajaya improved on its governance, initiatives and communication with the public, especially on issues like 1MDB. – May 7, 2015http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/najib-factor-not-cause-of-lower-rompin-majority-says-bn#sthash.Zuw90j0Q.dpuf

Malaysiakini - news links

BN keeps Rompin, majority slashed by 40pct by Malaysiakini; BN has won the Rompin by-election with a significantly reduced majority, which could be a result of anger due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). At about 10.15pm, the Election Commission (EC) announced that BN's Hasan Arifin had won the polls by a 8,895 majority - a dramatic drop of 40.8 percent compared to its majority two years ago at the 2013 general election. Hasan, a former Pahang deputy menteri besar had polled 23,796 while PAS's Nazri Ahmad had garnered 14,901 votes.
At a glance, the number of votes for BN had dropped by 20.8 percent - from 30,040 in 2013 to 23,796, while the number of votes for PAS was almost at status quo. However, it must be stressed that there is a lower turnout (39,288) for this by-election. The turnout was 45,849 in 2013.

Beyond GST and hudud, a Felda revolt in Rompin By Nigel Aw
ANALYSIS The Goods and Services Tax (GST) and hudud may have been the dominating issues during the Rompin by-election campaign but a crucial factor that appeared to have been overlooked was a brewing revolt by Felda settlers..... While BN's share of votes was reduced in most Malay majority areas, likely due to resentment against the GST, the swing against the ruling coalition was significantly higher in Felda settlements.... For example, according to polling district data, areas such as Muadzam Shah (96 percent Malay), Sungai Puteri (85 percent Malay), Kota Bahagia (86 percent Malay) and Sarang Tiong (90 percent Malay) saw an average swing of between three to six percent against BN. However, the data showed that the figure almost doubles in Felda polling districts with several seeing swings of almost 10 percent against BN..... While PAS campaigned heavily on GST in towns and villages, Felda issues was its trump card. The party's candidate, Nazri Ahmad himself is a descendent of a Felda Keratong settler..... PAS central committee member Mazlan Aliman, who leads the NGO National Felda Settlers' Children Association, said the revolt was already anticipated during his campaign. Mazlan (photo) said that unlike previous by-elections where Felda were considered near impenetrable BN strongholds, settlers were receptive and turned up at their ceramahs. Felda settlements have traditionally been difficult to reach by the opposition due to its often isolated locations and self-subsistence thanks to dedicated facilities built by the government. "If we were to compare to the 13th general election, at that time, Felda Global Ventures (FGV) was only just listed and settlers received a windfall of up to RM15,000 so BN won big. "But since then, FGV shares have fallen and our warnings about how Felda settlers will face hardship turned into a reality," he told Malaysiakini.... During the general election, FGV shares which were distributed to settlers was worth around RM4.60 each. The share closed at RM2.09 today. Voting data suggests that the youth vote swing was more than 10 percent, while there was also noticeable swing among the elderly voters, which have traditionally been staunch BN supporters..... Pending lawsuits against Felda. Mazlan pointed out that the Felda Keratong cluster has been a focus for PAS, which have been assisting some 700 settlers with their lawsuits against Felda. The settlers are suing Felda for allegedly cheating them by purchasing their oil palm fruits at a lower price than what they are worth in the market. "Seven hundred settlers is a significant number and when they are angry at Felda, they are also angry at the government as Felda is a federal agency," he said.... He added the discontent in Felda was further aggravated by the fall on commodity prices which has made life difficult for them.... Putrajaya's announcement during the by-election that it was offering houses to the descendents of Felda settlers for merely RM90,000 instead of the initial price of RM125,000 did little to placate this anger.
When the by-election was finally over, BN lost two Felda polling districts to PAS namely Felda Keratong 2 and Felda Keratong 4. In contrast, PAS only succeeded in winning a single polling district during the last general election, namely Bandar Baru Rompin due to anti-government sentiment among Chinese voters..... Even Felda Keratong 9, which saw the smallest shift against BN among the settlements, had a vote swing of 5.6 percent while other settlements in the Keratong cluster are Felda Keratong 1 (8.7 percent), Felda Keratong 2 (6.3 percent) and Felda Keratong 8 (6.8 percent)..... The anti-GST sentiment also helped PAS snap up other polling districts such as the fairly developed township of Muadzam Shah and Pianggu.... The polling districts of Pianggu and Leban Chondong were outliers with the former swinging heavily against BN, at 13.2 percent while the later swung 12.3 percent in favour of BN. It should be noted that both polling districts were affected by the massive flood last year and local factors such as how well reconstruction efforts went could have influenced voters...... Chinese voters backed BN. Even though PAS bagged several new polling districts, it lost Bandar Baru Rompin, possibly due to the party playing the hudud card towards the tail end of the campaign. The polling district, which comprise 81 percent Malays and 14 percent Chinese, swung 4.4 percent in favour of BN.... But PAS vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, who led the party's machinery in the Rompin by-election said GST was a bigger factor compared to hudud. "GST was a major factor as it was PAS' slogan that a vote for it is a vote against GST. This was why youths rejected Umno. "Hudud was not a major factor as PAS did not use it as a campaign issue, it was only used minimally," he told Malaysiakini when contacted.... BN may attribute its reduced majority to the low turnout of 73 percent compared to 85.5 percent in the last general election, the fact remains BN lost several polling districts to PAS and its share of votes fell.
Umno vice president Hishammuddin yesterday appeared to acknowledge this, stating that the government needed to take cognisance of the by-election outcome.....
Consider Rompin's message, says Hisham By Adrian Wong 11:56PM May 5, 2015
Were Rompin voters trying to send Putrajaya and BN a message? Possibly, said Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Husein. "Like what Pahang menteri besar Adnan Yakoob said earlier, the results that we see here, maybe there are some things the government needs to take into consideration.
"But what is important is that we won," he told reporters after the Rompin by-election results were announced..... He was responding to a question on whether issues raised by PAS, particularly the implementation of the unpopular goods and services tax (GST), had an effect on the polls.
Earlier, Adnan told reporters that the lower turnout was a result of a long holiday over the weekend and thus many voters had left before polling day.... "We also understand that people are sending certain messages to the government - both state and federal - we will take note of these (messages)," he said. Asked if he was referring to GST, Adnan (photo) said both GST and Felda issues had caused some resentment among voters. "We wil; have to deal with these issues. Hopefully, the federal government can do sometime about it," he said.... On whether PAS' aggressive push for the implementation of hudud law worked to its advantage, Adnan said that it was a non-factor.
........In 2013, incumbent Jamaluddin Jarjis polled 30,040 votes while BN's candidate Hasan Arifin polled only 23,796 - a 20.8 percent drop. However, the number of votes for PAS was almost unchanged at 14,901 votes. ...Meanwhile, Bernama reported that PAS has cited the lower voter turnout as a contributing factor for its defeat. Pahang PAS commissioner Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said the drop of 13 percent in the turnout as compared to the 13th general election two years ago had somewhat impacted the number of votes its candidate obtained. ........Nazri said although PAS lost in Felda Keratong 5, his home base by just 13 votes, overall the party had increased its votes from the younger generation of voters. "God willing, we will do better in the 14th general election," said,  Nazri, who is also Pahang PAS Youth chief.....


Comments posted in Malaysiakini - most likely reflective of a segment of urban centric views
Hisham, message from Rompin is clear By Yoursay 8:00AM May 7, 2015
  • The Observer: Putting it simply, the 20 percent reduction of votes for BN should have guaranteed its loss in GE14 if what was required was a five percent swing. The important thing is not that BN won, but that voters on both sides have spoken. Voters who were disappointed with PAS on the hudud issue have swung over to the BN. However that was not enough to offset an even bigger swing away from BN because of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issues, etc.
  • Haveagreatday: Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, it shall be a miracle if Umnoputeras do indeed heed the message of the Rompin voters. GE13 message was loud and clear but you folks chose to hide your heads in the mud.
  • Jbsuara: The message is clear. Umno-BN bulldozed GST and implemented it against the wishes of the rakyat, and worse, the implementation was so flawed that what was obviously a 'double' taxation is done to the detriment of traders and citizens. 
  • ZhuGeLiang: All these negativities about Najib's leadership have been proven wrong by the voters of Rompin. The facts speak for themselves. BN won the by-election. There is no point arguing about it. Period.......

Umno and PAS both losers in Rompin By Yoursay
  • Jiminy Qrikert: Rompin is Malay heartland and the Malays are sending a very clear message to their leaders on both sides of the divide. This result is alarm bells for Malay hegemony. A good 7,000 Malays abandoned Umno as a protest against the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Their message - don't make my life any harder than it already is. PAS retained its support. It did not gain any new voters. The message to PAS - hudud cannot feed them. PAS will always be a ‘jaguh kampung’ (village champion). They will keep their traditional support base, but all others will fall away. That means the non-Malays will definitely abandon PAS. New young voters will not vote for PAS. And PAS will not attract the Umno supporters who abandon Umno in protest against GST.
  • I Wonder?: What a pity! If only PAS abandoned the hudud issue and has chosen the moderate path, it could have won this by-election. The rakyat is in dilemma as they are sandwiched between two evils. One is the corrupted Umno that created the GST that sucks the rakyat's blood slowly, and the other the fanatical ulama in PAS who insisted on hudud that will turn this country into an Islamic state. Both GST and hudud are bad. But hudud is worse as even many Muslims are rejecting it and consider it inhumane, barbaric, out of date and not realistic in this modern world. 
  • CQ Muar: This was what I had wished for and predicted - that BN will win, but with a much reduced majority of less than 10,000 votes.....

The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes – UMNO Strengthens Its Malay Rural Fortress in 13th General Election by Khor Yu Leng

7 May 2015: Also, this paper is adapted and carried in a chapter in ISEAS book just published (picture left) - thanks to Johan and Hock Guan and rest of ISEAS team and for Kajian Malaysia for permission. And of course big thanks to my college friend Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, Associate Professor and Chairman of Political Science, School of Distance Education, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) for pushing me to do something. I managed to use material I had developed in 2002 in Dr. Michael J. Montesano's Southeast Asian history class at NUS (which he'd been encouraging me to get published.... so finally, 12 years later...).

Coalitions in Collision: Malaysia's 13th General Elections by Johan Saravanamuttu, Lee Hock Guan, Mohamed Nawab Mohamed Osman, editors. Date of publication: 2015 Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies / Strategic Information and Research Development Centre No. of pages: 309
Chapters on rural politics and Felda are....
5. The Political Economy of FELDA Seats: UMNO's Malay Rural Fortress in GE13, by Khor Yu Leng, author
6. Fragmented but Captured: Malay Voters and the FELDA Factor in GE13, by Maznah Mohamad, author

1 November 2014: My article has just been published in Kajian Malaysia.

Kajian Malaysia special issue  (Vol 32, Supplement 2, 2014): Malaysia's 13th General Election:  Reform, Change and Conservatism, articles have been successfully uploaded to, and can be freely downloaded from, Kajian's site at http://web.usm.my/km/current.html
Title: The Political Tussle Over Felda Land Schemes – UMNO Strengthens Its Malay Rural Fortress in 13th General Election
Author: Khor Yu Leng http://web.usm.my/km/32(Supp.2)2014/KM%2032%20Supp.%202_2014-Art.%204%20(89-121).pdf