But their hearts can be won over by the actions of political leaders who show they can help the electorate improve their economic situation, rather than those who simply dole out handouts, the former prime minister weighed in on the recent Kedah state seat contest that ended in a PAS win.
“Maybe I’m wrong—and I admit I am frequently wrong—but I think giving money and gifts will not bring victory. This was clear from PRU13,” Dr Mahathir said in his latest posting on his Chedet.cc blog yesterday, using the Malay initials for the 13th general election (GE13).
“Those who do not support, will still not support. The money given is a waste, whether it is the government’s money or not,” he added.
PAS had alleged last week that BN had spent at least RM15.5 million of taxpayers’ money in its Sungai Limau by-election campaign, which had seen the tiny hamlet overrun by senior government officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
The Islamist party had in July claimed that BN had promised at least RM377 million worth of projects while campaigning in the by-election for the parliamentary seat of Kuala Besut.
According to the nation’s longest-serving prime minister, voters tend to cast their ballots based on a political party’s struggle, and the action of its leaders and candidates.
“If you come with a Mercedes or a 1,000-cc motorcycle, even goodies or anything will not win the voters’ hearts,” he said.
He added that some “unwise” voters may even conclude that such sweeteners were a form of bribery, which would have a negative impact on their decision at the ballot box.
The Kedah-born noted that homes in Sungai Limau looked better now compared to when he was its MP, but claimed there were many people within the farming constituency who were still living in poverty.
“If they are given the chance and help maybe they will migrate,” he said, suggesting such assistance would be likelier to sway the voters to the BN.
“Only God knows. And maybe BN will be highly-regarded again.”
The 88-year-old also remarked at the irony of the current politics for the BN in Sungai Limau, which was the state seat under the greater parliamentary constituency of Kota Setar Selatan that Dr Mahathir had represented from 1964 to 1969.
“This is the current politics. They have a lot of money but still not enough influence,” Dr Mahathir wrote.
In the May 5 polls, BN won 133 out of 222 federal seats but was 15 seats short of the supermajority it used to command in the Dewan Rakyat.
The ruling coalition also lost the popular vote to the PAS-DAP-PKR opposition pact for the first time since 1969, when it had contested as the Alliance Party.