FROM the start, Barisan Nasional had used the Tanjung Piai by-election to prove the effectiveness of “muafakat nasional”, or national consensus, a political movement started in partnership with PAS against the Pakatan Harapan government.
BN will now claim that its thumping victory yesterday in Tanjung Piai, where it won with a 15,086-vote majority, was a collective thumbs-up for the movement, said analysts.
They pointed out, however, that speeches by top Umno leaders on the campaign trail revealed the hollowness of the movement’s message of communal inclusivity.
First, Najib Razak, an ex-Umno president who is battling corruption charges, had questioned PH’s appointment of a Chinese finance minister.
A video then surfaced of Umno Youth exco Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris calling for Chinese and Indian Malaysians to be denied the right to vote once Umno and PAS had a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Analysts told The Malaysian Insight these examples showed BN’s muafakat campaign to be self-contradictory.
By fielding Wee Jeck Seng, a candidate from Chinese party MCA, BN also wanted to disprove critics who accused the muafakat of promoting a Malay-Muslim nationalist agenda.
Although there was increased support for BN, especially from Chinese voters, the swing from PH had more to do with anger at the government for not fulfilling its promises than endorsement of the opposition’s politics, they said.
“Not all voters understand the muafakat. Maybe Umno and PAS members understand it but not ordinary voters,” said Mohd Azlan Zainal, director of think-tank Ilham Centre.
“The swing from PH is more to do with anger at the government not because of actual support for the muafakat. Due to the effects of the last general election, people feel freer to express their political feelings.”
Tg Piai had always been a BN fortress prior to the last general election. MCA and Umno have always had far bigger machineries and pool of members there, said Azlan.
Loss of hope
PH was soundly beaten in the by-election, losing in all of the constituency’s 27 polling districts. In GE14 it won in 11.
Polling results showed the ruling coalition lost even in Chinese majority districts such as Pekan Nenas Timur, Tengah and Selatan, areas in which it previously won.
In GE14, 64% of Tanjung Piai’s Chinese voters and 32% of its Malays backed PH.
The hoped-for increase in Malay support also did not materialise as PH polled lower numbers in districts such as Andek Mori, Sungai Durian, Permas Kechil, Serkat and Tanjung Kerang.
BN, meanwhile, received more votes in all the above districts than it did in GE14.
Political analyst Dr Mazlan Ali, who predicted a BN victory, said the opposition’s increase in support, particularly among the Chinese, was due to a protest against PH.
“It also has to do with the familiarity of voters with Wee Jeck Seng, who was a popular two-term MP. Tanjung Piai is also where both MCA and Umno are strong,” said Mazlan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
In the 2013 general election, Wee retained the seat with a 5,457 vote-majority but was defeated in 2018 by PH’s Dr Md Farid Md Rafik a narrow margin of 524 votes.
Although the muafakat narrative had swayed some Malays, Mazlan said economic concerns remained top-most on their minds.
This was borne out in the Ilham survey three days before polling where it was found that many respondents were unhappy about the low price of palm oil and the decrease in welfare aid.
“BN’s most effective campaign message was the reminder to villagers that they had received more welfare aid when the old government was around,” said Ilham’s Azlan.
“That they received more BR1M, more fishermen’s aid, that the price of palm oil was better, because these are things people can really relate to.”
Such a message struck a chord with villagers compared to PH’s promise to improve their lives through development which was what the late Farid had tried to do.
“Just because BN won big does not mean there is genuine support for BN. It is more about protesting against PH.” – THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT
Chinese have returned to BN – Zahid
BN’s landslide victory in the Tanjung Piai by-election is a sign of revived Chinese support, said coalition chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“This is proof that Chinese voters are back to supporting BN,” he said at a press conference in Pontian town tonight.
Zahid (above) said this also showed that BN component parties are still relevant.
“What more PAS in Muafakat Nasional, which makes cooperation in the opposition more relevant,” he added.
BN’s Wee Jeck Seng defeated Pakatan Harapan’s Karmaine Sardini with a 15,086-vote majority to reclaim the Tanjung Piai seat.
Earlier tonight, a Harapan source told Malaysiakini that the ruling coalition is faring poorly in the polling districts of Jalan Rimba Terjun and Kampung Duku.
Both Jalan Rimba Terjun and Kampung Duku are Chinese-majority polling districts.
Meanwhile, Zahid said the Tanjung Piai victory is also a win for the people neglected by the Pakatan Harapan government.
Asked whether Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should step down after the defeat, he said he didn’t want to get involved in this.
“But if that is what the people want, please do it immediately,” he added.
Mahathir had campaigned heavily for the Tanjung Piai by-election, including sending letters to voters. – MKINI
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT /MKINI