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After the by-election

  • We should not over-interpret the outcome in Cameron Highlands, or we will very likely pass down the wrong judgment. Photo courtesy: Bernama

Sin Chew Daily

Many people have been analyzing the results of Cameron Highlands by-election, and have concluded that the outcome was not due to a single factor. Most importantly, those on opposite sides of the political divide must not be misguided by the wrong messages.

A major reason for BN's victory is because PAS contributed the fundamental support (the party won 3,587 votes in GE14). Some who supported BN have indeed voted for Pakatan Harapan in this by-election, and BN would not have cliched an easy win without PAS supporters' votes.

Many say Umno has lost the last general elections because of the vote-splitting three-cornered fights it created, and that one-on-one fight is stlil the best strategy ever.

Having won in Cameron Highlands, Umno and PAS are poised to join hands again in Semenyih and the next general elections in a bid to recapture Putrajaya with the help of Malay votes.

Nevertheless, PAS' influences are largely confined to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and to a lesser extent in the northern region. The party hardly makes a dent in the central and southern regions. As such, the Umno-PAS collaboration will only work in the east coast and north, and will hardly have a chance in Semenyih or GE15.

Cameron Highlands falls within PAS' east coast scope of influence, and the Jelai state assembly seat under it with a large number of Felda settlers is menteri besar Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail's constituency. It is therefore within expectation that Umno would win in this traditional stronghold. It is difficult for Umno and PAS to make any significant inroads in urban and semi-rural areas.

Sure enough Umno-PAS collaboration will put some pressure on PH for the simple reason they command more than half of all Malay votes.

Another reason for PH's defeat is the low voter turnout among Chinese and Indian voters and the coalition's failure to win more Malay votes.

Why have Chinese and Malay voters stayed away from the poling booths?

PH might claim that outstation voters were unwilling to return to Cameron Highlands merely weeks before Chinese New Year. Or perhaps many simply feel that the by-election outcome would not change the big picture anyway.

However, we cannot rule out the possibility that many refused to vote because they were unhappy with the new government for its lackluster performance as well as its failure to honor its election pledges.

DAP should not be contented with the fact that Chinese votes have not swung towards BN. PH will lose if its supporters remain reluctant to vote, particularly in tightly-fought battles.

PH must not ignore the promises it has made to non-Malays just because it wants to take care of the feelings of the Malays. It should instead look seriously into why it has been defeated in Cameron Highlands. In no way should it lean towards racism and religionism just because it wants to fight Umno-PAS.

The improved support for PH in Cameron Highlands shows that BN is not a sure bet there. I believe rural voters and Felda settlers may also swing in favor of PH.

The ruling coalition can relieve the sense of insecurity and fear among the Malays if it manages to address their day-to-day problems and boost the prices of commodity products.

Frustration among rural folks give the opposition parties a good chance to strike and play up the racist and religious game.

Similarly, Umno and PAS mustn't think that they have won the hearts of voters and can continue to manipulate sensitive religious and racial issues after winning Cameron Highlands, as this will make them more difficult to win over non-Malay voters, including those from East Malaysia.

The increasingly strong bond between Umno and PAS also puts MCA and MIC in a very embarrassing position, while making it almost impossible for BN to really transform itself into a coalition for all Malaysians.

The Cameron Highlands by-election shows that Umno's election machinery and rural networks are still very effective, and this has somehow boosted the party's depressed morale. That said, the crisis is still not yet defused, with some 5,000 members from Sandakan and Kinabatangan in Sabah quitting the party to join Warisan.

Umno acting president Mohamad Hasan has not demonstrated any convincing leadership in the by-election campaign. He got a lift from PAS' fundamental support. In its stead, Najib was seen working very hard to campaign for BN's candidate.

In delivering his victory speech, Mohamad Hasan said the Umno-PAS collaboration had been very successful in uniting Muslims, and that the same strategy would be applied in future elections.

This points to the fact that Umno will continue to need PAS in future, and may even be led by the nose by the Islamist party.

Anyway, we should not over-interpret the outcome in Cameron Highlands, or we will very likely pass down the wrong judgment.

PH needs not put all its effort to woo rural Malay voters. All it needs to do is fix the ailing economy and improve the living quality of the people in order to secure their support.

The stumbling block that hinders that nation's progress may only be removed if politicians would put politics aside and concentrate on improving the people's lives.


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