DAP’s landslide victory in Sandakan parliamentary by-election proves that the Umno-PAS alliance is not invincible.
Racism is simply not entertained in East Malaysia!
DAP did not win in Sandakan on Chinese votes alone. Chinese make up about 51% of the voters in Sandakan while Muslims make up 45%. Without the support of Muslims, it is impossible for DAP’s Vivian Wong to win with expanded majority with a turnout of only 54.4% and the fact that many working outstation did not go back to vote.
In last year’s general elections, DAP’s Wong Tien Fatt won with a majority of 10,098 votes, but his daughter managed to expand the lead by 1,423 votes in last weekend’s by-election.
There are a few reasons to explain DAP’s convincing victory. Among them the voters of Sabah have grown frustrated with PBS and Umno.
PBS used to be very powerful in the state. In the 1985 state elections, the party formed by Joseph Pairin Kitingan barely weeks before defeated Harris Salleh’s party to take the state helm.
Unfortunately, PBS’s stand has been inconsistent. The party joined BN in June 1986, left the coalition in October 1990, and then rejoined in January 2002 before opting out again after BN’s defeat in GE14 to form GBS.
The Tambunan Spirit is gone, and PBS has failed to defend the rights of Sabahans. Its days are over, and the influence of GBS is fast waning.
Umno is even worse. After losing the 2018 elections, of the seven MPs and 17 state assemblymen elected, only one MP and one state assemblyman still pledge loyalty to the party, namely state Umno chairman Bung Moktar Radin and former chief minister Musa Aman.
Bung Moktar claimed that there were 9,700 Umno members who would vote in Sandakan, and he wanted all of them to support PBS’s candidate Linda Tsen. But the thing is, Tsen only managed to get 4,491 votes.
Apparently, many Umno members are abandoning the ship.
After GE14, there was a massive exodus in Sabah Umno. A political structure surviving on money politics has finally come tumbling down. In the absence of a strong foundation and with Bung Moktar’s incompetency to lead, it is hard for the party to make a comeback anytime soon.
Chief minster Shafie Apdal is another reason why DAP has won by a landslide. Shafie’s influences in the Muslim community is progressively expanding, and his Warisan is fast taking the place of Umno in the state.
Another significant factor is the track record of the late Wong Tien Fatt, whose remarkable contribution in the constituency has prompted the voters to back his daughter Vivian.
The effort of Umno and PAS leaders to campaign for PBS’s candidate in Sandakan has proven to be futile, showing that the Umno-PAS “Muslim unity” trick has failed badly in Sabah.
While PAS still has some clout over the rural areas on Peninsular Malaysia, the party hardly makes a dent in East Malaysia where religious sentiment is never as strong. Even with a tie-up with Umno now, the Islamist party hardly has a chance to make its presence felt.
PAS may as well forget about East Malaysia in the next general elections, and without the support of East Malaysian voters, it is impossible for Umno-PAS to reclaim Putrajaya!
Najib has hoped that the “Bossku” fever in Cameron Highlands, Semenyih and Rantau could be duplicated in Sandakan but to no avail.
It appears that the defeat in Sandakan has not awakened Umno. In conjunction with the party’s 73rd anniversary, acting president Mohamad Hasan urged party members to look ahead and focus on winning GE15. He told members not to look back and not to review why the party had lost in the election, but concentrate on bringing the party back again.
Without a sincere soul-searching, there is no way Umno can find out its problems and make amends. The party is still unwilling to sever its ties with leaders of tainted reputation, continuing to invite Najib to the party’s anniversary celebration. This will eventually lead to the downfall of BN.
In the meantime, Pakatan Harapan still needs to work very hard to extend the positive effects from the Sandakan victory to West Malaysia, after successfully averting a fourth consecutive defeat which could have dampened the ruling coalition’s morale further.