More than 3 weeks ago (Oct 21), FinanceTwitter had already predicted a humiliating defeat for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the Tanjung Piai by-election (click here to read the article). The official result is out – opposition Barisan Nasional has beaten Pakatan Harapan with a jaw-dropping majority of 15,086 votes. Clearly, that’s a huge slap on Mahathir’s face.
Barisan candidate Wee Jeck Seng from MCA received 25,466 votes, while Pakatan’s Karmaine Sardini from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM or Bersatu) received only 10,380 votes. Amazingly, Mr. Wee received the biggest majority since he took over from (former) MCA president Ong Ka Ting, who won with a 23,615-vote majority in 2004. That’s a huge win.
The by-election was triggered after incumbent, Dr Md Farid Md Rafik of PPBM party, died of heart complications. Prior, Wee Jeck Seng had been a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tanjung Piai constituency from 2008 to 2018. He had defeated the DAP candidates multiple times – in the 2004 (11,162 majority), 2008 (12,371 majority) and 2013 (5,457 majority) general elections.
Nope, we’re not here to gloat although it would be nice to tell Mahathir – “I told you so”. We are also not in the fortune-telling business, but the writing was clearly on the wall from the beginning. You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell why Mahathir’s party, PPBM (Bersatu), will lose the parliamentary seat – even before any of the candidates were selected.
We also wrote that it did not matter who Pakatan planned to field as the candidate for the election. Even if the opposition Barisan selects a donkey as a candidate, it’s a sure win. The only question was whether the opposition – Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition – will win with a massive majority. The problem BN faced was whether to field a Malay or a Chinese candidate.
Unlike the arrogant Bersatu party, the opposition was thinking with a clear and objective mind. The opposition’s decision to pick Wee Jeck Seng – again – was cleverly done to test and take advantage of the ethnic Chinese displeasure and anger over Mahathir leadership. And if a donkey could win Tanjung Piai, just imagine the type of victory that Wee Jeck Seng could achieve.
In the 14th General Election, Dr Farid of PPBM had defeated MCA’s Wee Jeck Seng with only a slim 524-vote majority. Farid secured 21,255 votes, while Mr. Wee grabbed 20,731 votes, leaving the PAS candidate with the remaining 2,962 votes. The razor-thin majority was achieved despite the people’s anger over previous BN government’s 1MDB scandal and unpopular GST tax regime.
In the just concluded by-election, the opposition parties have joined forces. In theory, based on the result of May 2018 General Election, a combined alliance of Barisan Nasional and PAS would win the seat – 23,693 votes against Pakatan Harapan’s 21,255 votes. Back then, the turnout was 45,858 votes or 85.67%. Wee only got 46.12% of the total votes, while Farid grabbed 47.29%.
However, on Saturday (Nov 16), despite a commendable turnout of 74.43% or 38,815 voters, Mahathir’s half-baked candidate failed to retain the seat, received only 26.74% of the total votes while Mr. Wee easily recaptured his seat with 65.60% votes in the six-cornered fight. What does this tell you? It simply means the voters, especially the Chinese, had voted against Mahathir.
The constituency comprises 57% Malays, 42% Chinese and 1% Indians. In the May 2018 General Election, 74% of votes secured by Mahathir’s party were from the Chinese voters. This means 15,728 Chinese voters had voted for PPBM, while the remaining 5,527 votes (26%) came from Malay voters. Assuming the Malay votes for PPBM remained the same, only 4,853 Chinese had voted for Pakatan this time.
Yes, the Chinese voters had been waiting for an opportunity to send a messageto Mahathir about their displeasure over Khat Jawi, Zakir Naik and dozens of other racial and religious extremism issues played by the prime minister and his minions. With crooked Najib Razak out of the corridors of power, the 94-year-old premier could not use 1MDB to fish for Chinese votes anymore.
The fact that the turnout was relatively high at 74.43% also suggests that instead of staying at home as a sign of protest, the Chinese were so mad with the prime minister’s leadership that they gave their votes in droves to the opposition MCA to teach the old man a lesson. Had BN sent an UMNO-Malay candidate, they may not win so massively for obvious reason.
Besides bullying the minority Chinese – forcing SJKC vernacular schools to learn Khat Jawi and protecting Zakir Naik even after the Indian Muslim hate preacher insulted the Chinese – the Chinese were also unhappy with issues like pending recognition of UEC, sagging economy, rising cost of living, unfulfilled election manifesto promises and unsatisfactory performance of the Mahathir government.
Mr. Mahathir thought by fielding a candidate like Karmaine, with a background as a mosque imam and an architect, the Malay voters in Tanjung Piai would be impressed and threw their support for his party, sufficient to offset a small swing from a handful of angry Chinese voters. The premier’s miscalculated as he had underestimated the determination of the Chinese to punish him.
Perhaps Mahathir’s advisers had forgotten to remind the premier that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Not only did the premier fail to win more Malay votes in his little racist game, he has lost the support of the Chinese at the same time. He should be congratulated for supporting Zainal Kling who warned and threatened non-Malay minorities that their citizenship could be suspended.
PM Mahathir’s approach of dancing to the tune of UMNO and PAS has also proven to be a silly strategy. In his haste to transform PPBM as the biggest Malay dominant party, he tries to make his party more Malay than UMNO and more Islam than PAS. But in the Tanjung Piai election, neither UMNO nor PAS talked about racial or religious extremism in their campaign.
What the Chinese voters remembered on Saturday was not UMNO’s racial discrimination or PAS’ religious extremism, but Mahathir’s racial and religious bigotry in a multi-racial and multi-religious new Malaysia. They also remembered how the premier told the Malay audience at the recent Malay Dignity Congress that the ethnic Chinese were merely “orang asing (foreigners)”.
Fortunately to Pakatan Harapan, the Chinese had swung to the evil and corrupt opposition party not because they like MCA, but rather because they hate Mahathir and his arrogant ministers more. Hence, if corrupt and racist crooks like Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Najib Razak think the Chinese have returned to BN for good, they must be stupider than they look.
In the same breath, the PAS Islamist party must be high on weed to claim that the result of Tanjung Piai is proof that the minority Chinese (and other minorities for that matter) accept the so-called unification of the Muslim community by UMNO and PAS. This is just a temporary retaliation from the Chinese community to screw Mahathir, who is still in denial over people’s disgust over his leadership.
However, to be fair, the shocking loss was not only a referendum against Mahathir, but also a warning to DAP for its failure to deliver promises trumpeted during the general election campaign last year. The Chinese-based party appears to have become MCA version 2 – the lapdog of Mahathir – and even willing to be bullied by a young punk like Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq.
Although the Chinese understood that PPBM and DAP were playing political drama, they were not interested. They wanted DAP to convince Mahathir to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate and to tell the old premier to stop playing politics of racism and discrimination, not to mention to fix the economy so that more business opportunities and employment could be created.
Now that Mahathir’s own party has suffered an embarrassing defeat, the prime minister has essentially lost his bargaining power, if there was indeed a secret and evil plan to create a new “Malay-only” coalition government with factions from UMNO, PKR, PPBM and PAS. Will the opposition still give any face to Mahathir now that they know his party is crumbling and vulnerable?
Yes, thanks to the arrogant 94-year-old premier, his party has now lost one parliamentary seat. Effectively, the ruling Pakatan coalition government has also lost one critical seat. Mahathir stubbornly uses racial and religious extremism to attract Malays to his party, only to backfire spectacularly. Perhaps it’s true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.