For a long time, it was impossible to beat Barisan Nasional (BN) in the state of Johor.
It was, if you ask some, because Umno was founded in the state therefore it is impregnable there.
Others would say, because it is the last state to fall under white rule (1914), and a such had a stronger sense of Malay nationalism and even the non-Malays accept this paradigm, it organically shaped as an Umno vote bank.
And some claim, it’s down to the lack of PACAs.
True, really? Well, a bit of yes and no, but it does make captivating reading.
Retold in full
PACA means, (P)olling (A)gent, (C)ounting (A)gent.
Regardless of the number of voters in a constituency, there can only be that many voters in every voting room. So voters are divided up to rooms of similar capacity.
Because one team of Election Commission officials, led by the head of the room, can only accommodate that many voters in a day (voting allowed between 8am till 5pm). Probably 500+ per room.
So large constituencies like Bangi (178,000 voters) probably would have about 400 rooms, divided to maybe 80 voting centres; compared to Arau in Perlis (45,000 voters) which would have about 100 rooms, at perhaps 20 voting centres.
That’s a lot of facts.
Here’s what matters, the head of each room at the end of voting and counting will fill up a form which will be used to tally the total votes from the seat. So from the supposed 400 forms in Bangi totalled, they will know who has the most votes and indeed won the seat.
So what happens in each of those rooms, determines the outcome of Bangi.
The counting is done in the respective rooms, not at a central location, though the overall result is announced at the central location.
Every candidates needs to ensure two things, that only eligible people vote and only their votes are counted correctly and recorded.
The PACAs are the eyes and representatives of the candidates in each of those rooms, irrespective of how many rooms there are. Of course candidates in large constituencies would need a lot more PACAs to cover the higher number of voting rooms.
In the rooms where Pakatan candidates do not have PACAs, they will rely on both the Barisan Nasional PACAs and the neutral EC room head, to both only allow eligible voters to get ballots and cast them, and then count diligently those votes after.
Here’s where the Johor story comes in.
Some claim, a combination of low party members (therefore fewer dedicated PACAs) and perception it is impossible to win in Johor (drawing less volunteers from outside the party) has led to many voting rooms having no Pakatan/independent/Gagasan Rakyat/Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah/Malaysian Peoples’ Socialist Front PACAs. These unrepresented rooms also incidentally end up with large number of votes for BN.
The old acceptance was that BN is strong in Johor therefore the results are not surprising.
However, and this goes to the start, some believed that non-BN candidates did considerably worse in Johor, as in smashed, because there were no PACAs, no eyes for the candidates in those rooms.
The last election with the increased amount of ground work and machinery in Johor by all the non-BN party, there was a huge show by Pakatan in the state.
Perhaps it was a genuine upswing of voters for Pakatan, but the assurance of more PACAs did not hurt the Pakatan cause.
Which is why, for those who are not partisan but would like fair elections, perhaps their best contribution in any election is to be a PACA for Pakatan candidates.
Being a PACA does not mean support for the candidate, but surely as a fan of democracy, any regular Malaysian would want only eligible voters to cast their ballots, and every vote as intended by the voters should go to the right candidate.
Unlike being a PACA for BN, there is no payment for Pakatan PACAs. Consider it national service, and yes, it is work. But a democracy is work, no?